Stilton causes a stink in Japan trade deal talks

Negotiations stall as Liz Truss seeks preferential treatment for British blue cheese makers

Stilton blue cheese
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ongoing post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and Japan have reportedly reached a stalemate after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss insisted on wedging a clause relating to Stilton cheese into the deal.

The two countries had hoped to finalise a wide-ranging trade agreement by the end of August, “having apparently reached ‘consensus’ in all major areas of a prospective deal last week”, The Independent reports.

But Truss is said to be holding out for preferential treatment for British blue cheese makers, “amid pressure on Boris Johnson from British farmers concerned about the imminent loss of EU subsidies”, says The Guardian.

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As the newspaper notes, Truss is an outspoken champion of British food manufacturing, and “famously” condemned Britain’s huge appetite for foreign cheese as a “disgrace” during the 2014 Conservative Party conference.

According to the Financial Times, Japan is prepared to phase out tariffs on hard cheeses such as Cheddar by 2033, but is refusing to go soft on fresh and blue-veined varieties, which would have duty-free access on an agreed quota by the same date.

However, Truss is reportedly hoping for a symbolic “win” on Stilton that will demonstrate that the UK is able to forge better deals than those obtained by the EU. A 2018 agreement between the bloc and Japan saw Tokyo scrap tariffs on European products such as cheese and wine, while the EU removed duties on Japanese cars.

But The Guardian claims that Japan is reportedly “reluctant to offer Britain better terms” than it gave the EU, which has a combined population nearly seven times greater than that of Britain.

In a statement on Monday that failed to mention the Stilton issue, Truss said: “We have reached consensus on the major elements of a deal, including ambitious provisions in areas like digital, data and financial services that go significantly beyond the EU-Japan deal.”

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