Sunak and Biden launch ‘Atlantic Declaration’ economic-security partnership

Labour says plans – which include car batteries and nuclear power – fall short of government’s promised trade deal
Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden in the White House yesterday Photo: No.10/Twitter

By Jim Dunton

09 Jun 2023

Prime minister Rishi Sunak and US president Joe Biden have set out proposals for a new economic-security partnership that aims to reduce the influence of China and Russia in key technologies.

The Atlantic Declaration, unveiled by the two leaders in Washington DC yesterday, will see the UK and the US work together more closely on economic, technological, commercial and trade relations.

However the scope of the arrangement – which still needs to be negotiated in detail – falls short of the post-Brexit trade deal with the US that was promised in the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto.

The declaration includes plans for a “critical minerals agreement” that would benefit UK automakers and firms that mine or process minerals used in car batteries by making vehicles with those batteries eligible for tax credits under the US Inflation Reduction Act. The act provides a US$3,750 incentive – worth £2,989 at today’s exchange rates – for vehicles purchased that are sourced from the US or a country it has a critical minerals agreement with.

The declaration also covers the launch of a new civil nuclear partnership between the UK and the US, described by No.10 as being designed to support the clean-energy industry and “keep Russia out of the global civil nuclear power market”.

Elsewhere, it includes a “commitment in principle” to create a new UK-US data bridge that would make it easier for thousands of UK businesses to transfer data freely to certified US organisations without red tape. No.10 said the result would be an estimated £92.4m in direct savings per year for the 55,000 firms expected to benefit.

Downing Street said the agreement was expected to result in the UK being designated as a “domestic source” within the meaning of Title III of the US Defense Production Act – allowing British companies to benefit from US Government investment on the same basis as American firms.

Sunak said the Atlantic Declaration was a logical extension of relations between London and Washington DC.

“The UK and US have always pushed the boundaries of what two countries can achieve together,” he said. “Over generations we have fought alongside one another, shared intelligence we don’t share with anyone else, and built the strongest investment relationship in world history.

“So it’s natural that, when faced with the greatest transformation in our economies since the Industrial Revolution, we would look to each other to build a stronger economic future together.

“The Atlantic Declaration sets a new standard for economic cooperation, propelling our economies into the future so we can protect our people, create jobs and grow our economies together.”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the declaration fell short of the full post-Brexit trade deal that the Conservative Party’s last election manifesto promised would be agreed by the end of last year.

"This statement shows the government has failed to deliver the comprehensive trade deal they promised in the 2019 manifesto, or to secure the ally status under the Inflation Reduction Act that is so important for the automotive sector and for the green transition,” he said.

Transatlantic trade association BritishAmerican Business welcomed the announcement of the declaration but cautioned that it only signalled intent and did not represent agreement on any of the issues.

Association chief executive officer Duncan Edwards said that benefits for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic would only be realised if real outcomes were reached on issues like a critical minerals exemption from the Inflation Reduction Act for the UK car industry.

“We hear from the overwhelming majority of transatlantic businesses that they want far deeper and greater economic collaboration,” he said. “But this declaration, along with the other initiatives undertaken at a state and federal level are certainly welcome.”

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