The Department for International Trade expects to have at least two bumper trade deals ready to go the day after the Brexit ‘transition period’ ends, according to reports.
“I’d expect a minimum of two new trade deals to be ready to implement on January 1st 2021. That’s very doable,” a source familiar with the internal working of Liam Fox’s department told The Sun.
The source suggested Australia and New Zealand, which share a head of state with Britain in Queen Elizabeth II and have many close historic and familial links with it, are the countries the DIT expects to finalise arrangements with first, although the United States has also been a priority, given President Donald Trump’s vocal support for Brexit and a strong Anglo-American trade deal.
Australia: Staying in EU Customs Union Would Turn Brexit Britain into ‘Irrelevant, Humiliated Dependency’ https://t.co/wKB7khh4Sc
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) March 29, 2018
Australia and New Zealand were major sources of beef and butter for British consumers before the country was taken into the EEC — as the EU then was — in the 1970s, after which they were subjected to a punishing common tariff and largely priced out of the market.
This resulted in significant damage to Britain’s economic relationship with its former colonies, as well as higher prices for shoppers. EU member-states are not permitted to strike their own trade deals, making it impossible for the British government to eliminate the new tariffs without the rest of the bloc’s permission.
The two countries have been pushing hard for the old trade links to be restored after Brexit — although this will only be possible if Prime Minister Theresa May does not agree to a deal which leaves Britain trapped within the EU’s Customs Union, as the Labour Party desires.
The Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom has warned that such an arrangement would leave Britain a “humiliated, irrelevant dependency” of the EU.
Trump’s Commerce Secretary Blasts EU’s ‘Extreme Protectionism’, Backs Big Post-Brexit Deal with Britain https://t.co/PTOCJxzzPh
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 7, 2017
The Department for International Trade’s plans over the longer-term are more ambitious, and trade working groups have been established with more than twenty countries.
Not every deal will be as straightforward as ones with Australia and New Zealand are expected to be, as unrestricted trade with some large, low-wage economies could undermine Britain’s domestic industries.