LONDON — Trade Secretary Liam Fox believes that a post-Brexit free trade deal between Britain and the European Union will be “one of the easiest in human history” to negotiate.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning, Fox suggested the only hurdle that could get in the way of a comprehensive free trade deal being agreed quickly would be if “politics gets in the way of economics”.
Fox — who campaigned passionately for Britain to leave the EU last year — is confident that a future trade relationship can be agreed within the two-year Article 50 period, despite expert warnings that it will be rife with complexities and likely to take up to a decade to negotiate.
“The idea that you can have a free trade deal or future relationship sorted within the two years is just absolutely absurd,” Steve Bullock, a former UK negotiator to the EU, told BI this week.
Nevertheless, Fox was this morning confident that Britain would be able to defy the claims of experts and agree a deal with EU prior to the Article 50 process expiring. He also insisted that Britain would “survive” in a no-deal situation.
The MP for North Somerset said: “We don’t want to have no deal, it is much better that we have a deal than no deal.
“We can of course survive with no deal and we have to go into a negotiation with those on the other side knowing that that’s what we think.”
He added: “Of course we want to come to a full and comprehensive deal with the European Union. Why? Because it is good for the people of Britain and it’s good for our economy, it’s good for the consumers and the workers of Europe and their economy.
“If you think about it the free trade agreement that we will have to come to with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.
“We are already beginning with zero tariffs and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence as it is called, in other words our rules and our laws are exactly the same.
“The only reason that we wouldn’t come to a free and open agreement is because politics gets in the way of economics.”
Fox at odds with negotiating experts
Steve Bullock, who worked for the UK’s Representation to the European Union between 2010 and 2014, said in an interview with BI there is “no possibility” of a free trade deal being agreed within the two years allowed by Article 50.
“The idea that you can have a free trade deal or future relationship sorted within the two years is just absolutely absurd. There is no possibility of that,” he said.
“There could be a divorce agreement and maybe a transition deal if it was very simple. The UK could agree to stay in the EEA for five years, for example. But the UK would have to agree to the package. There just isn’t time.”
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