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UK Latest International Policy updates

Defence and Security

Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps confirmed plans for six naval ships to be built. The ships will be equipped with new British-made Dragonfire lasers capable of hitting targets from a kilometre away.

Naval ship

The announcement could be seen as part of the government’s attempts at positioning strongly on defence issues and comes off the back of the Prime Minister’s commitments to increase spending on defence. While it has been pointed out that the plans for the ships are not new, the government is attributing the go-ahead/confirmation to the recent increase in funding by the Prime Minister. On an international level, this direction of travel is seen as a possible means for the UK to show leadership and to gear up/incentivise its allies towards a 2.5% of GDP spending on NATO.

The announcement also points to posturing by the Conservative Party by using national security as part of its election security. Earlier, the Prime Minister gave a speech asking who the nation trusted to keep them safe.

Overseas Trade Missions

UK senior ministers including the Deputy PM, Oliver Dowden and a delegation of over 400 business leaders embarked on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia.

Trade

Although the trip is believed to have had a geopolitical subtext, where it was used to convey messages about the need for stability in the Middle East for long-term prosperity, provided an opportunity for trade related discussions. Oliver Dowden held a series of bilateral talks with Saudi leaders about U.K. trade with the region after giving a keynote speech at the Great Futures conference in Riyadh.

Also noteworthy is the possibility of trade deal talks with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE this year. The Deputy PM expressed hopes for this but stressed the “need to get the best deal.”

Migration

The Migration Advisory Committee published its rapid review of the Graduate Route (Immigration) in response to the Home Secretary’s Commission. The MAC found no significant abuse of graduate visas.

Migration

It noted the fiscal contribution of international students in covering the deficit of universities as well as the impact of immigration changes brought in earlier this year, such as the ban on foreign students bringing family members, on reducing the number of international students. While businesses and higher education providers continue urging the government not to cut the route, it remains to be seen what the government’s response would be.

Technology and Innovation

The Chancellor hosted tech firms at his country residence in Buckinghamshire. This is arguably part of an attempt to get them to list in the UK instead of the US.


Technology

Trade Agreements

The UK has ratified the deal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The ratification is seen as a step in the right direction.

CPTPP

Customs Regulations

The government introduced full sanitary and phytosanitary checks on goods imported from the EU as part of the second phase of its new Border Target Operating Model. The introduction of physical checks on animal and plant products from the EU in April has come under criticism. Dubbed the “Brexit border tax ” an ITV report projected an £8 a month cost to the average food shop. For businesses dealing with it now, it has meant delays as lorries carrying perishables such as meat, cheese and cut flowers have been held up at border posts due to problems with the government’s IT systems.

Customs

A National Audit Office report found that despite five delays, the lack of a clear timetable for an effective border means that full post-Brexit border controls will have cost £4.7 billion by the time they’re finally in place. It referred to “challenges” with the Cerberus computer system which means that although border processes have run “largely as intended,” they have added extra costs to businesses.

Produced by Esenam Agubretu, Parliamentary and Regulatory Affairs Manager, LCCI.