Major trade partners seek compensation from UK and EU over Brexit

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Concerns were raised at today’s meeting of the World Trade Organization’s goods council | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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Leading trade partners are seeking compensation from the U.K. and EU over Brexit uncertainty that has disrupted pre-Christmas trade.

Some 15 countries — including heavyweights such as Australia and the U.S. — raised concerns over their commercial losses at today’s meeting of the World Trade Organization’s goods council, according to a Geneva-based official in the room.

Australia said the extension of the U.K.’s withdrawal caused “significant commercial disruptions” for their businesses. “Many Australian businesses ceased exports of commercially valuable beef and sheepmeat in the lead up to Christmas,” Australia said in the meeting.

The countries pressed the EU and the U.K. to offer better market access as compensation for the trade disruptions caused by Brexit.

Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. also expressed their concerns, even though Britain is trying to style its former colonies as natural strategic and commercial allies after it has quit the EU. They have already warned Britain and the EU to not just shuffle tariff rate quotas between each other.

TRQs define the volume of sensitive goods — such as beef and dairy products— that members of the World Trade Organization can export to the European Union at zero or low tariffs.

The EU said in the meeting that it had published “detailed information to reduce commercial uncertainties” and that it was willing to continue negotiations with WTO members regardless of the scenarios for the U.K.’s withdrawal. The discussion will continue Friday.

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