Ministers have been urged to come clean with the likely benefits from a planned post-Brexit agreement with Isreal after the Department for Trade refused, arguing it would not be “appropriate”. Opposition MPs have argued the trade estimates should not be kept under wraps while economists differ on whether any future benefits can be accurately forecast.
Official data on the enhanced deal with Isreal released back in November did not include GDP figures.
This comes after similar forecasts were provided for trade talks with the US in 2020 which pointed to a 0.16 percent boost in GDP by 2035.
The Independent reports that the Department for Internation Trade has confirmed that there are no plans for the GDP forecast for the Isreal deal to be released.
Labour shadow trade minister Gareth Thomas has responded by claiming the Government is seeking to avoid scrutiny.
He said: “Time and time again, ministers are avoiding scrutiny and transparency on their trade policy – it’s little wonder when it isn’t delivering for British businesses and communities.”
Mr Thomas added a Labour Government “would ensure all trade deals are properly thought through and scrutinised, and that they would also work for all sectors and regions”.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats’ trade spokesperson Sarah Green said that “if Conservative ministers have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.”
She said: “The whole point of these deals is to help us trade with other countries. If there is no uplift to our GDP then why are we pursuing a deal? These figures should be published without delay.”
The director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex Business School, Professor Michael Gasiorek told The Independent that the Department for Trade’s stance on releasing the forecasts “does make sense”.
He said: “I think that there is too much of a focus on the overall impact of an agreement.
“It is perfectly possible that an agreement overall has very little impact – for example, 0.1 per cent of GDP – but there may be some big losers and big winners underneath that,
“The overall figure only gives you the net effect. I have always argued and wanted the government to produce more disaggregated evidence from their modelling.”
The UK’s planned free trade agreement with Isreal enhances the previous deal penned by the EU before Brexit.
Trade talks were started last July under the then trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
The government says the goal of the trade talks with Tel Aviv is to sign “a new, innovation-focused trade deal.”
A Department of International Trade spokesperson said: “A free trade deal with Israel will enhance our £5billion trade relationship and boost UK services exports to Israel by up to £78million.
“As UK-Israel talks are focused on enhancing specific sectors that have rapidly growing demand, such as digital, technology and financial services, it isn’t appropriate to use the same modelling as we do for deals such as Australia and New Zealand.”