Why is UK's trade deal with Japan being held up by cheese? Theo Usherwood explains

11 August 2020, 14:17

By Adrian Sherling

The UK's negotiations over a trade deal with Japan have hit a stumbling block - and it's all because of cheese, Theo Usherwood explains.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss wants to start selling Stilton cheese to Japan - even though there appears to be little demand for the product.

Speaking to James O'Brien, Theo Usherwood attempted to explain the plan.

He said: "The trade talks that are taking place between Japan and the UK is already taking place and Liz Truss has reportedly put up a blocker because she wants to ensure, according to a report in the Financial Times today, that Stilton cheese is part of any negotiations.

"At the moment, under the EU agreement with Japan, which we are a part of until 31st December, cheese exported from the European Union into Japan is subject to a tariff.

"But an informed source tells me that smelly cheese is not particularly popular in Japan.

"The relevance of that is that when the trade deal between the EU and Japan was signed, the French didn't put cheese into it to remove tariffs to allow it to be sold at a lower price in Japan, because there wasn't enough demand. Just like we didn't put Stilton into it.

"Liz Truss wants to ensure that we get a better trade deal than the EU has with Japan because we're going to be able to sell our Stilton cheese into Japan."

James O'Brien and Theo Usherwood tried to understand Liz Truss's cheese plan
James O'Brien and Theo Usherwood tried to understand Liz Truss's cheese plan. Picture: LBC

Theo then explained about the importance of geographical indicators - that Stilton cheese can only be made in Stilton and Cornish pasties in Cornwall. This is part of Ms Truss' plan.

Theo continues: "What will happen when the transition period ends is that we're no longer going to be subject to those rules. So French suppliers could make stilton cheese and call it stilton cheese and sell it into the Japanese market.

"But because of Liz Truss' hardline, we're going to be able to sell our Stilton cheese into the Japanese market much cheaper than any European knock-offs."

James had one small problem with the idea, saying: "Even though they don't really want any Stilton cheese."

Watch their very entertaining exchange at the top of the page.