Britain exploring membership of the TPP to boost trade after Brexit

Liam Fox's visit to China comes less than a month after Chancellor Philip Hammond made his own visit to Beijing

Liam Fox's visit to China comes less than a month after Chancellor Philip Hammond made his own visit to Beijing

The government is exploring the possibility of Britain joining a trade group centred on the Pacific Ocean after Brexit takes place, Cabinet minister Liam Fox has said.

Greg Hands, Great Britain's Secretary of Commerce, said there are no "geographical restrictions" stopping the country from joining the TPP.

The TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The 11 signatories, also including Japan, last November reached a broad accord on a revised TPP deal.

The 11 countries that remain in the TPP have expressed their commitment to the group's trade effort nonetheless. "With these kind of plurilateral relationships, there doesn't have to be any geographical restriction". Fox has said repeatedly that Britain will be free to strike its own trade deals with fast-growing Asian nations once it has left the EU.

A Department for International Trade spokeswoman added: "We have set up 14 trade working groups across 21 countries to explore the best ways of progressing our trade and investment relationships across the world". Currently, members of the TPP account for about 8% of British exports.

Fellow non-euro country Sweden has long seen Britain as one of its closest partners in the union, and concerns have been raised that pressure for Sweden to join will increase when its ally leaves the EU.

However it is likely that any agreement would have to wait until TPP has been revised after the U.S. left and following the United Kingdom settling its Brexit departure with the EU.

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This plan smacks of desperation".

Creasy, a leading supporter of the pro-single market campaign Open Britain, said: "The Prime Minister wants us to believe that the economic damage of leaving the European Union will be made up by concluding trade deals around the world - but her own trade minister can't point to a single country that has expressed an interest in a free trade deal with Britain. It's all pie in sky thinking". Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said in December that parliament would have an effective veto over any trade deal.

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