Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Brexit leak reveals UK scrambling for trade deals

UK has signed just six agreements, well under the 40 promised by March 29

Britain pens a trade agreement with Switzerland on Monday, though minister Liam Fox (L) may be left embarrassed by the leak. EPA/PETER KLAUNZER
Britain pens a trade agreement with Switzerland on Monday, though minister Liam Fox (L) may be left embarrassed by the leak. EPA/PETER KLAUNZER

Britain will fall short of 40 trade deals promised to have been delivered by the time it’s scheduled to leave the European Union in March, according to a leaked document.

International trade minister Liam Fox faces embarrassment at having signed just six promise letters for trade deals with European partners.

Mr Fox promised that he could roll over 40 existing EU trade deals by March 29, when the UK leaves the EU.

Just a handful of letters have been exchanged between trade minister Liam Fox and other countries.

Britain penned an agreement with Switzerland on Monday, while it has Chile, the Southern and Eastern African bloc tied up. Deals with Israel and the Palestinian Authority are “on track”.

The document, leaked by The Sun newspaper, reveals that discussions with 19 countries are significantly off-track, including Egypt, Morocco and Jordan.

Preliminary-agreements for major deals with South Korea and Canada, two economic heavyweights, won’t be completed by the end of March.

“We’re not going to get many of the deals over the line in time now,” a minister told The Sun newspaper.

“What we hope to have instead is letters of understanding with all the remaining countries, which will go some way to reassuring business.”

The National asked Britain’s trade department for comment.

UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Al Mansouri earlier this week said he was approached by the UK for a free trade deal.

Mr Al Mansouri said it could take years to reach an agreement.

Neither the UK trade department or the UAE provided any detail about what the deal could look like.

In his speech at the beginning on February, Mr Fox said the UK should pivot to “new and established partnerships”, in particular China and India.

Mr Fox, like many Brexiteers, believe the UK should establish free trade deals. Brexit would see the UK fall out of existing trade deals negotiated by the EU, including the EU-Japan deal dubbed the world’s biggest free trade zone.

Updated: February 20, 2019 04:59 PM

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