Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has seen the likes of Australia, New Zealand and South Korea make informal approaches to the British government with a view to striking up free trade agreements. This is according to Liz Murphy, director of the International Meat Trade Association, who recently set out a post-Brexit strategy for meat exporters.
While Britain may be free to trade with the world once Article 50 is activated, all eyes will be on negotiations between London and Brussels as the continent’s political heavyweights shape the future of trade for the two powers.
One plausible option is what UK politicians call the Norway-plus option – tariff-free access to the EU single market but the freedom to control our own overseas trade policy. Proponents argue this would enable the UK and EU to trade with each other without facing trade barriers. A report from the UK’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) also claimed the UK’s contribution to the EU budget would be reduced by a fifth.
What Article 50 states
A member state which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3)* of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
Another option being whispered in Whitehall is an agreement similar to that of non-EU member Switzerland. If the UK and the EU followed the blueprint of this deal, Britain could strike up multiple Free Trade Agreements with the 27 Eurozone members, but such deals could take up to a decade to finalise.
Theresa May has appointed David Davis to lead a newly-created government department responsible for overseeing Brexit. Davis has recently said that the UK should start the formal withdrawal process from Europe by 2017.
But beyond this, everything is speculative and the government is yet to make a formal announcement regarding the type of arrangement it is seeking with Europe.
A spokesman from Brussels told GlobalMeatNews: “European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has made clear there will be no negotiation before notification of article 50 and therefore we cannot speculate further at this stage.”
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation re-penned an open letter to the Prime Minister, outlining four key priorities it wanted secured in Brexit negotiations: reassurances for job security of the 100,000 EU nations working in the UK food and drink manufacturing sector; continued market access to consumers, ingredients and trading agreements with third countries; a roadmap on how the exit process will be managed; and urgent action to address economic and currency volatility, as well as a hiatus on the Apprenticeship Levy and Soft Drinks Levy whilst uncertainly persists.