Brexit proved prolonged and messy. To continue doing business with the European Union, its largest economic partner, the United Kingdom had to negotiate a deal covering most aspects of trade in goods and services. Ten agonizing months of bargaining ensued. Yet, as Rob Boyle writes in RealClearEnergy, after many twists and turns, the negotiations yielded not just a bilateral deal for the EU and UK, but also an unexpected glimmer of hope for transatlantic trade in clean energy technologies.
Notably, the deal agreed on December 24th gives important exemptions that will allow the UK to continue to export electric vehicles without facing tariffs. The EU’s concession on this point didn’t arise from Christmas spirit, but due to strong commitments both sides made to fight climate change. The EU, through its European Green Deal, aims to build an economic recovery on the back of clean technologies. The UK meanwhile has positioned itself as a leader in global climate diplomacy, hosting the UN COP26 summit this year, and has adopted its own bold agenda for a “green industrial revolution.” In this context, concluding a trade deal that put obstacles in the way of clean-tech trade would have been a political misstep.
EU trade negotiators’ extraordinarily flexible approach to the UK—exempting (some) clean-tech from tariffs—now could open the door to an EU-US clean-tech agreement. Given the approach of the Biden administration to the climate agenda, it would be hard for Europe’s leaders to object to showing a similarly flexible approach to boost transatlantic clean-tech trade.