UK-Japan post-Brexit talks hit ‘stumbling block over Stilton’

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6:12 p.m., August 11, 2020.

(Updated 11:42 am, August 11, 2020)

Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and Japan have reportedly hit a "stumbling block" – blue cheese.

Both sides have pledged to largely reach an agreement by the end of this month, but one of the open issues, according to media reports, is access to food and agricultural products.

The deal, which will build on the existing EU deal, reportedly stalled when the UK looked for better terms on blue cheese but Japan sought to comply with existing EU tariffs.

The Department of International Trade would not comment on the negotiations or on Trade Minister Liz Truss' comments last week that talks with Japan were "positive and constructive", with consensus on the "main elements of an agreement".

The Financial Times has reported that Ms. Truss hopes that a token victory over Stilton cheese will show the UK can get better business than the EU did.

Last year the EU secured a € 1 billion (£ 899 million) cut in food tariffs. The largest exports to Japan include dairy products and other foods.

Officials hope an agreement can be largely agreed by the end of the month and implemented by the end of this year when the UK's transition period within the EU expires.

Ms. Truss previously expressed her interest in local products, particularly in a speech at the 2014 Conservative Party conference.

She told attendees it was a "shame" that "we import two-thirds of our apples, nine-tenths of our pears and two-thirds of our cheese".

The comment was later converted into a social media meme.

Liberal Democrat trade spokeswoman Sarah Olney said: "Given the complexity of the trade negotiations, it is no surprise that the UK-Japan trade deal has hit a stumbling block.

"However, the fight for a trade agreement with Japan must not distract from the fact that our most important trading partner is and will remain the European Union.

"The Liberal Democrats urge the Conservative government to do everything in their power to reach the best possible deal with the EU. Otherwise, the livelihoods of thousands of people will be put at risk."

(tagsToTranslate) News – The talks between the UK and Japan after Brexit are successful

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