British group loses legal challenge over Morocco trade deal

Dec 5 (Reuters) – A campaign group on Monday lost a legal challenge to Britain’s post-Brexit trade deals with Morocco on goods from the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK (WSCUK) took legal action over rules issued by the UK Treasury following the October 2019 “association agreement” which was designed to replicate Morocco’s agreement with the EU.

The group argued at London’s High Court that rules extending the preferential rate of import duties to goods originating in Western Sahara, an area Morocco considers its own, were illegal.

Judge Sara Cockerill rejected WSCUK’s argument that products originating in Western Sahara should only benefit from preferential tariffs if they were produced with the consent of the people of Western Sahara.

She said in a written ruling on Monday that the group’s interpretation of the UK-Morocco agreement would mean that “the agreement could not be used at all in respect of products originating in Western Sahara”.

A UK Government spokesman said: “We welcome today’s judgment. We will continue to work closely with Morocco to maximize [the] £2.7 billion trade between our countries.”

Erin Alcock, a solicitor at Leigh Day, who represented WSCUK, said her client was “disappointed with the court’s decision”.

The ruling follows a long-running dispute over the territory of Western Sahara, which has become part of Morocco’s and Algeria’s regional rivalry in North Africa.

Algeria supports the Polisario Front independence movement for the disputed territory, which in 2020 announced the resumption of its armed struggle against Morocco.

Reporting by Sam Tobin. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

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