The UK has been forced to reopen its trade deal with Ukraine, one of its most sensitive post-Brexit agreements, after there were errors in the original text. independent can reveal.
The agreement was signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in october last year, and lauded as a prime example of Britain’s post-Brexit trade and foreign policies. The agreement covers not only commercial relations between the UK and the Eastern European country but also defense cooperation to support Kiev’s sovereignty.
it follows annexation of Crimea By Russia in 2014, a region still recognized internationally as part of Ukraine. It also came amid declining relations between Moscow and London. Sergei Skripal’s Poison In Salisbury in 2018.
Britain-Ukraine relations again hit the headlines last month after Russia claimed it fired warning shots at a British ship as it was passing close to the Crimean peninsula.
Underscoring the political importance of the agreement in October, Johnson said the UK was “Ukraine’s most ardent supporter”. He added: “Whether it is our defense support, stabilization efforts, humanitarian aid or close cooperation on political issues, our message is clear: we are fully committed to upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
However, two officials told independent The agreement was already being reworked after mistakes were noted in the drafting of the business chapters. Those same officials said some of the errors are the result of copying and pasting sections that bind the UK to EU rules.
Problems emerged when the Department of Trade sought to create guidance on how the deal should be used by businesses in February and March after the deal went into effect in January. However, the fact that the deal required fresh negotiations and drafting was not made public by the Department of Trade for International Trade.
One of those same government officials said it was a deal in which “no one wanted to go wrong”. The deal in particular was under particularly close scrutiny by the European Union, he said. Separately, an EU official told independent that he noted that the agreement bound the UK to rules in some areas which he did not expect.
A spokesman for the Department of International Trade said: “It is standard practice for small sections of agreements to be revised and updated over time to reflect developments, or to add more clarity that is helpful to businesses.”
However, one of the same officials familiar with the development of the agreement said the changes that needed to be made were not minor, and could have a significant impact on businesses. He said they amount to errors rather than updates.
A business with operations in Ukraine, which officials would not name due to commercial sensitivity, had also flagged additional issues with the text, he said. The official confirmed that the issues touched upon the trade of both services and goods.
Labor’s shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said: “This is not the only time the government has made fundamental errors while moving our EU treaties, but it is by far the most serious.”
“Of all the 67 non-EU countries with which the UK signed rollover agreements in 2019 and 2020, the Ukraine deal was the only one considered to be of substantial strategic importance, signed by the Prime Minister himself, Which makes it even more surprising. Now to be rewritten,” said Ms. Thornberry. “This act of gross incompetence not only needs to be corrected immediately, but must be immediately explained.”
The sensitivity of UK-Ukraine relations was recently underscored by the government integrated review About your defense and foreign policy strategy. A section on Russia notes that Britain will increase support for countries in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, “where we will continue to build the capacity of our armed forces.”
Sam Lowe, senior fellow at the Center for European Reform, said mistakes in trade deals are “unfortunate but not entirely uncommon”. He said it was not surprising that this happened with a rollover agreement” as these involve more copying and pasting of text than new deals.
“This is a deeper agreement than others and involves a commitment to abide by EU rules in some areas. And if there is one thing we have learned it is that the UK government does not like to be bound by EU rules does,” said Mr. Lowe.
A former senior Australian trade negotiator told independent That it is true that agreements sometimes needed to be amended, but that significant changes were often not made so soon after the text of the agreement was finalised.
The former negotiator said this could be a sign of the trade department’s rush to secure agreements to ensure continuity after Brexit. Small, wrong changes or failure to make the right changes to treaties can cause “big headaches,” he said. Given the rush to pursue agreements, the public should expect to revisit more trade deals in the coming months, he said, adding: “Copy and paste can be dangerous.”