Brexit Britain has been hailed for doing more trade negotiations for deals than “any other country in the world”. Trade minister Greg Hands made the comments as he was grilled by MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
Mr Hands highlighted how the UK has struck trade agreements with 71 countries since leaving the European Union.
It came after he was questioned on whether other countries could be put off dealing with Britain if it goes ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which gives ministers powers to override elements of the post-Brexit agreements for Northern Ireland.
Tory MP Simon Hoare asked: “Do you have any worry or concern if the Government had to drive the Bill forward and put it on the statute book, that the integrity of the UK and the honesty of our word would be questioned making it slightly more difficult or finding the remedy texts of disagreement gone over far more closely with other countries with whom the UK was seeking a free trade agreement?
“We run the risk of being seen as a country that signs something but if we do not like it we unilaterally alter it and bypass mechanisms in the agreement for dealing with remedies.”
Mr Hands replied: “We haven’t found that as an issue in other words the reliability of the UK as a treaty partner.
“What we have found as an issue is uncertainty about where it is all heading, what could be the final protocol.
“It is not so much our trade partners saying the UK unreliable, they are saying this is where the protocol is today and what is the UK seeking to do that might change it which might have an impact on our country.
“It’s more that, rather than any questions about the UK as a reliable partner.
“We have trade agreements with 71 countries. The UK is really well established now six years after the foundation of the department.
“We’re doing more trade negotiations for deal FTA negotiations than any other country in world. People are seeing the UK as an attractive country to do a deal with and a reliable partner.
“It’s more questions about what could happen with the protocol. “
Mr Hands also reiterated that the Government is seeking a negotiated settlement with Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol was designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the wake of Brexit.
But the arrangement has been an ongoing source of tensions as it has led to checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.