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UK Labour vows to ensure post-Brexit trade deals boost regions

LIVERPOOL — A Labour government would require British trade negotiators to ensure all regions of the U.K. benefit from new agreements.

Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds will make the pledge as he delivers his speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool, in part to paint the governing Conservatives as desperate to get deals over the line regardless of their trade-offs.

He will highlight official statistics that reveal the benefits of exports are not shared evenly across the U.K. For example, just 1.4 percent of exporters are from the North East and less than 5 percent are from the East Midlands.

“The next Labour government will establish firm rules to ensure that trade negotiators have binding responsibilities to help deliver economic opportunities across the whole of the U.K.,” Thomas-Symonds will declare, according to extracts of his speech shared in advance with POLITICO. “So for every new trade deal Labour negotiates, we will do everything possible to ensure that it will work for communities, livelihoods and businesses nationwide.”

The plan means negotiators would need to report back to ministers to explain how free-trade agreements match up to set criteria designed to spread the benefits of the deals across the regions. The rule could be enshrined in law. 

If the criteria are not met, officials would need to explain the reasons and could be sent back to the negotiating table. After agreeing a deal, the Department for International Trade would have to set out a plan to ensure exporters across the U.K. reap the benefits on offer. 

Before, during and after negotiations, officials would need to consult with devolved administrations, regional business representatives, trade unions and education institutions, among others. 

“This is a country with talent in every corner: a Labour government will help it flourish,” Thomas-Symonds will pledge. He’s also expected to tout green export hubs to promote Britain’s comparative advantage in climate change-fighting technology.

Elsewhere, Shadow Farming Secretary Jim McMahon said a Labour would ban imports of fur, foie gras and hunting trophies if it wins the next election. The Conservatives were expected to impose the bans but will now ditch the move for fur and foie gras, sparking outrage from animal rights campaigners.

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