Britain has signed a commerce continuity settlement with Switzerland to keep away from disruption for hundreds of companies post-Brexit, lower than 50 days earlier than the UK is because of depart the EU.
The Division for Worldwide Commerce mentioned the settlement would keep UK-Swiss commerce underneath the preferential phrases at the moment out there to each nations by an EU free commerce deal.
It comes as ministers rush to make sure the continuity of about 40 free commerce offers held by the EU protecting greater than 70 nations, which Britain at the moment has entry to by way of EU membership however will lose after Brexit.
Ministers have conceded in personal conferences with enterprise leaders that they won’t be able to switch the entire offers earlier than the Brexit deadline on 29 March, which means a big proportion of UK exports may shift to World Commerce Group guidelines. This might imply larger border tariffs and further prices for firms in Britain and overseas.
Japan has sought to extract hefty concessions from Britain earlier than Brexit, whereas talks with many countries have been delayed by the dearth of readability over Britain’s future buying and selling relationship with the EU.
The commerce between Britain and the nations and areas coated by the EU free commerce agreements quantities to about 14% of all UK items imports and exports annually, price as a lot as £117bn in 2017.
Signing the Swiss commerce continuity deal will allow ministers to declare that progress is being made, however offers with main buying and selling companions together with Canada, South Korea and Japan stay to be signed.
Britain has agreed mutual recognition commerce offers with Australia and New Zealand, in addition to commerce continuity agreements with Switzerland, Chile, the Faroe Islands and the japanese and southern Africa buying and selling bloc.
Liam Fox, the worldwide commerce secretary, who signed the Swiss accord in Berne on Monday with a Swiss federal councillor, Man Parmelin, mentioned the deal was of “enormous financial significance” to Britain and would profit 15,000 UK exporters.
“Not solely will this assist to help jobs all through the UK however it is going to even be a strong basis for us to construct an excellent stronger buying and selling relationship with Switzerland as we depart the EU,” Fox mentioned.
The deal simplifies commerce and permits companies in each nations to proceed buying and selling freely after Brexit with none extra tariffs, as is at the moment the case as a part of EU membership.
A spokesperson for the Division for Worldwide Commerce mentioned: “Our precedence is to keep away from disruption to our international buying and selling relationships as we depart the European Union and we’re in search of continuity for present free commerce agreements.”