The UK and Israel have signed a trade continuity agreement to take effect after Brexit, with the Department for International Trade saying the move would “deliver significant savings and help to safeguard British jobs”.
Liam Fox, the UK’s International Trade Secretary, and Eli Cohen, Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry, signed the agreement in Jerusalem on Monday.
According to the Department for International Trade, the agreement “allows businesses to trade as freely as they do now, without any additional barriers or tariffs.” The department also noted that the agreement could mean “the British vehicles sector could avoid up to £9 million a year in tariff charges on their exports that would apply if the agreement wasn’t in place, while machinery and mechanical appliance exporters could avoid up to £5 million a year.”
It also said that UK consumers would “continue to benefit from more choice and lower prices on goods imported from Israel, such as pharmaceutical products”. Israeli companies currently act as major suppliers of pharmaceuticals to the NHS; Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli company, is the largest manufacturer of generic medicines in the world.
Dr Fox described the UK’s relationship with Israel as “stronger than it has ever been, with record levels of bilateral cooperation in trade and investment between our two nations.
“Today’s agreement will further help ensure UK and Israeli businesses, exporters and consumers have the certainty they need to continue trading freely and in confidence as the UK prepares to leave the EU.”
On Twitter, Dr Fox described the agreement as an "Important step forward for the GB & Israel trading relationship".
Important step forward for the 🇬🇧 & 🇮🇱 trading relationship. We have just signed the trade continuity agreement rolling over the EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement. A special thanks to my Israeli counterpart @elicoh1 for his hard work in advancing the UK-Israeli trading partnership. pic.twitter.com/CaIuSBE0NF— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFox) February 18, 2019
The deal was also praised by the Israel-Britain Chamber of Commerce, with Anita Leviant, the organisation’s president, describing how “bilateral Trade between the UK and Israel has been booming during the last several years and the UK is Israel's second largest trade partner, with over 300 Israeli companies choosing to set up their businesses in the UK.”
As calculated at the end of the third quarter of 2018, the trading relationship between the UK and Israel was worth around £4 billion on an annual basis.
“Tech, science and innovation cooperation between companies and organisations of both countries keeps growing each year and the sky is the limit,” Ms Leviant said.
“Ensuring continuity for our important mutual businesses is therefore a must. This agreement, at this time, provides the required immediate certainty, and at the same time, serves as a solid foundation, for growth and enhancement of the already existing two-way UK-Israel trade and investment relationship."
David Quarrey, the UK's ambassador to Israel, described the agreement as a "key step in ensuring continuity for thriving trade and investment relationship."
"After another record year [for UK-Israel trade] in 2018, even more ambitious for 2019."