Brexit: UK hopes to roll over 40 EU trade deals, says Liam Fox

Image source, Reuters

The UK hopes to have 40 trade arrangements with 70 countries in place by the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020, the international trade secretary has said.

Liam Fox told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he hoped to "roll over" the arrangements from the EU agreements.

He said all those countries had been spoken to and had agreed they would like that outcome.

The UK is set to stick with current EU trade deals during the transition.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, 2019, with the proposed transition period - during which most of the current trade arrangements would continue - set to last until 31 December, 2020.

According to the proposals the UK and the EU have been negotiating, the idea is that the UK can negotiate its own future trade deals with other countries during the transition period, but only on the basis that they do not come into force until 1 January, 2021.

Mr Fox said that the number of trade deals ready to go at the end of the transition period would depend on negotiations.

But he said: "We will have arrangements that we will be able to roll over from the European Union's agreements, we hope to have around 40 of those. We hope we will have all of those in place by the time we go."

"There are about 70 countries and 40 agreements. We hope all of those ones will be ready because they are extensions of what we have at the moment.

"Of course we require the agreement of the countries involved. We have spoken to all 70 countries involved. They have all given agreement that they'd like to see that in place."

'Least risk to the UK'

He said that he wanted the UK to take advantage of "being able to negotiate beyond the European Union's borders".

"We've got 14 working groups in place with 21 countries at the present time I'd hope to make as much progress as possible because we need to have a confident and optimistic agenda for Britain's future," he said.

He said trade talks have begun with Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Mr Fox refused to rule out a transition period continuing beyond the end of 2020, but said it was "not likely to happen".

"I wouldn't like to see that, nor would I support an extension," he said.

He was asked about warnings by prominent Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg that Britain would be a "vassal state" during the transition period.

"I absolutely wouldn't share those words and I would say that what we are doing is carrying out the will of the people to leave the European Union, which we shouldn't question, we must accept, but we are doing it in a way that is providing the least risk to the United Kingdom," Mr Fox said.