Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Brexit secretary says a no-deal Brexit now less likely

Published:Monday | December 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The likelihood of Britain leaving the European Union without a future trade deal has "dropped dramatically" now that the two sides have reached a preliminary agreement on their divorce terms, the country's Brexit secretary said yesterday.

The deal hammered out by Prime Minister Theresa May last week means the negotiations on Britain's March 2019 departure from the EU can move on to the next phase, Brexit Secretary David Davis told the BBC.

The progress should give Britain enough time to negotiate a free-trade agreement for once it is outside the EU, making it unlikely that the country will have to fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that would impose tariffs, he said.

"The odds, as it were, against a WTO, or no-deal outcome, have dropped dramatically," Davis said.




The risk of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal has raised concern among business leaders who feared that such a result would hamper trade and investment and weaken the nation's economy.

The danger of a no-deal Brexit would have been much greater without last week's agreement on so-called divorce issues, including citizen's rights and the Irish border, because the preliminary talks could have stretched on for months, leaving negotiators short of time to complete an agreement before the 2019 deadline, Davis said.

The government's goal is to maintain tariff-free access to the EU market for both goods and services, which make up a large part of the British economy. Critics have argued that time already is too short, citing the case of Canada, which took seven years to negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU.