Free trade deal with the EU isn’t possible in two years

In his second Brexit challenge, Nick Clegg lays out the potential challenges in making a free trade deal with the EU.

By Nick Clegg, 08/09/2016

The paper was drafted with help of independent experts and is co-authored by Peter Sutherland, the founding Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

The paper reaches a number of conclusions, including:

  • That a free trade deal with the European Union will be impossible to agree within two years
  • That, therefore, an interim deal will need to be agreed to avoid a dangerous and extended period of uncertainty for British companies
  • And that a new trade deal will result in significantly more red tape for British companies exporting to the EU as British exporters will also have to comply with complex ‘rules of origin’ which require UK exporters to obtain proof of origin certificates from their national customs authorities and are estimated to increase trade cost by four and 15 per cent 

This is the second of Nick Clegg’s ‘Brexit Challenge’ papers. The first, released in July, focused on the difficulties Britain faces retaining significant access to the Single Market.

Over the coming months Nick will be working with a range of experts, to set out the difficult questions the Government has to answer in a host of areas that will be affected by Brexit. He will publish a series of papers detailing the challenges and dilemmas facing the UK in a wide range of areas, not only on our trading relationship with the EU but also freedom of movement, policing and anti-terror co-operation, agriculture, university research funding, environmental standards and many other areas.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said:

"Conservative Brexit ministers have argued that Britain will be able to agree a whole host free trade deals quickly and easily. As Australia has made clear, it is far from straightforward. 

“The European Union is by far the biggest market for British exporters, but there is simply no way we can tie up a free trade deal within two years. That means years of uncertainty for British companies and a profound impact on our jobs and our economy. 

“The Government needs to make its plan for Britain’s new relationship clear as soon as possible. We are in the calm before the storm right now, but the Government cannot avoid the fact that, whatever form Brexit takes, it will have a profound impact on our economy and the millions of jobs that rely on our trade with Europe.”

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