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As the UK and Japan prepared to reach a final agreement for a post-Brexit trade deal, one British product caused a bit of a stink.
After apparently reaching a “consensus on the major elements of a deal”, and having promised to finalise a preliminary deal by the end of this month, international trade secretary Liz Truss has reportedly stalled negotiations after seeking preferential treatment for Stilton in support of British producers.
Terms of the current EU-Japan deal, which came into effect last year, currently mean a 29 percent import tariff on hard cheeses will be phased out by 2033. However, blue-veined cheese varieties will only have duty-free access on an agreed tariff by the same date.
When the Brexit transition ends come 2021, the UK will no longer benefit from the deal. However, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that Japan is keen to stick with these quota arrangements agreed with the EU as it moves forward with a UK deal. While negotiations have been going smoothly so far, things came to a head when Truss insisted on more favourable terms for blue cheese.
Truss is well-known for her support of the UK’s agricultural industry and British cheesemakers. But the fight to defend Stilton is part of a smaller issue as British farmers and producers voice concerns about the imminent loss of EU subsidies, and the threat of low-quality imports post-Brexit. It’s hoped that the recent set-up of the Trade and Agriculture Commission could help further protect British food standards as post-Brexit trade deals continue.