10:37 | 12/06/2019 Cooperation
The UK has reached a preliminary trade deal with South Korea to avoid disruption if Britain leaves the EU without an agreement.
|South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee, with the UK international trade secretary, Liam Fox - Photograph: AFP/Getty Images|
The two countries have agreed in principle a free trade agreement that will allow businesses to continue trading freely after Brexit, including in a no-deal scenario.
The development comes as ministers attempt to secure post-Brexit deals to retain trading rights on preferential terms with countries the UK already benefits from an agreement with under EU membership.
Liam Fox’s international trade department has signed continuity deals with nations accounting for about 63% of trade covered by EU deals, including Switzerland, Chile and the Faroe Isles, up from 28% three months ago. However, critics warn that the deals may not cover as much trade as existing arrangements and are incomplete.
The deal with South Korea, which Fox’s department said would be subject to final checks before it is formally signed, is the UK’s first major trade deal in Asia since the June 2016 Brexit vote.
The Department for International Trade said the agreement would allow UK firms to continue trading on preferential terms with the Asian nation. In 2018, 99% of British exports to South Korea were eligible to be exported tariff free.
Fox signed the joint statement in Seoul on Monday with the South Korean trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee.
In a statement, Fox said: “The value of trade between the UK and Korea has more than doubled since the EU-Korea agreement was applied in 2011. Providing continuity in our trading relationship will allow businesses in the UK and Korea to keep trading without any additional barriers, which will help us further increase trade in the years ahead.
“As we face growing global economic headwinds, our strong trading relationship will be crucial in driving economic growth and supporting jobs throughout the UK and Korea.”