The British government has already begun preparatory work for trade deals with America and Australia set to be worth billions of pounds, less than a month after the British people voted to leave the European Union.
Britain’s new Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, has announced that he is preparing to meet with the White House’s most senior trade negotiator in the coming days, before flying to America next week to kick off preliminary trade talks.
His diary is likely to be full for quite some time: yesterday the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, called the new British Prime Minister Theresa May to request trade talks be launched with his country too.
With around a dozen countries already clamouring for Britain’s attention, Australia and America, two countries with significant shared histories with the UK, appear to have been placed at the front of the queue.
According to the Guardian, Mr Turnbull called Mrs May to express a desire to open up trading between the two countries as a matter of urgency.
Following the conversation Mr Turnbull said: “We did discuss a free-trade agreement … Clearly our free-trade arrangements with the United Kingdom are [currently] with the European community.
“I have had a constructive discussion with the prime minister about that and we look forward to discussions between my trade minister and his counterpart, Liam Fox.
“We need to get moving on that quickly … Australia has been a great beneficiary of free trade and open markets and so has the United Kingdom.”
Mrs May also welcomed the conversation, saying: “I have been very clear that this government will make a success of our exit from the European Union. One of the ways we will do this is by embracing the opportunities to strike free trade deals with our partners across the globe.
“It is very encouraging that one of our closest international partners is already seeking to establish just such a deal.
“This shows that we can make Brexit work for Britain, and the new secretary of state for international trade will be taking this forward in the weeks and months ahead. Britain is an outward-looking and globally minded country, and we will build on this as we forge a new role for ourselves in the world.”
Britain will be unable to formally sign any new trade deals until it is outside the European Union, following the invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which will in turn trigger two years of exit negotiations.
During the referendum debate voters were repeatedly warned by Remain campaigners that opting to leave the EU would leave Britain isolated and inward looking. Yet within weeks of deciding to go its own way, Britain has been inundated with calls from major nations worldwide seeking talks on new trade agreements.
Dr Fox has told the Sunday Times that he is currently “scoping about a dozen free trade deals outside the EU to be ready for when we leave,” and will be meeting with states to negotiate trade deals ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU, putting Britain in a position to sign a whole slew of deals the moment that takes place.
Following the referendum result, Mike Froman, the US trade representative, has held discussions about a UK-US trade deal with senior government a deal with Britain.
Speaking in Washington, Mr Froman has said that the shape of a deal will depend in part on the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, the Telegraph has reported. Dr Fox will be holding talks with Mr Froman this week, before flying to America, perhaps as early as next weekend.
But Mr Froman admitted that the vote also had significant implications for the future of the deeply unpopular Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal currently being negotiated between the US and EU, as America had entered talks in large part as a means to accessing the British market.
“We’ve already had a number of countries saying, ‘We’d love to do a trade deal with the world’s fifth biggest economy without having to deal with the other 27 members of the EU’,” Dr Fox said.