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International Trade

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Brexit negotiations start off without a bang; trade on the agenda as early as October

The UK has seen a flurry of activity in the last three weeks with its general election, forming of new government and legislative agenda as a result of the election, and the start of Brexit negotiations. Although not initially accepted by the UK, both sides have now agreed that divorce proceedings will happen first before any negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and UK. Michel Barnier, chief Brexit negotiator for the EU, has said that only once sufficient progress is made on the three priorities (citizens’ rights, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and financial settlement for the UK’s departure) can there be discussions on trade. Even still, this would require unanimous backing by the EU’s 27 other members and could happen in October, at the very earliest. 

Following the general election on 8 June, the Queen delivered her speech setting out the UK government’s legislative agenda for the next two years, within the timeframe of Brexit negotiations. The speech laid out plans for separate bills on trade and customs. On customs, the UK intends to base its customs legislation on existing EU law which falls in line with Prime Minister May’s previous statements. On trade, the UK highlights the importance of establishing tools to deliver an effective trade remedies regime. The ultimate purpose of these bills is to enable the UK to operate its own independent trade policy and standalone customs regime.

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