The European Union’s (EU) trade boss has signalled the UK could go to the back of a “queue” of 18 nations as it tries to negotiate a trade deal with the bloc after Brexit.
Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish politician and the European Commissioner for Trade, insisted Britain would receive no favourable treatment from the EU speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“We are negotiating 15 [to] 16 trade deals right now, preparing for another five or six big ones, so we will be busy,” she said, adding: “Maybe the UK as well then.”
When she was asked if the UK “would be 18th in the queue”, Mrs. Malmström replied, “yes”, but went on to claim that various negotiations would be happening simultaneously for different agreements. “It’s not like we tick them off one after another,” she added.
“[A trade deal with the UK] will take a couple of years for sure. It will not be done overnight. There will be some sort of transition period…. How long that will be – I have no idea,” she said.
The EU’s most recent trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), with Canada, took seven years to negotiate and has still not been fully approved by the EU parliament.
Mrs. Malmström also acknowledged during the discussion that “protectionism is rising” and said “that is worrying… the whole world is losing on this”.
Earlier in the week, the UK’s Trade Minister Liam Fox revealed Britain has already held “informal trade negotiations” with a dozen countries all over the world as part of the government’s plan for a new “global Britain”.
“We have taken our first steps to establishing ourselves as the champions of free trade and taking our place, once again, as one of the greatest open trading nations in the world,” he wrote in The Telegraph.
“In a globalised world, Britain must stand ready to trade, to build a free and open network of commerce and trust that will not only safeguard our nation’s prosperity, but spread wealth across the world.”