Britain lines up post-Brexit trade deals with dozens of non-EU countries, ex-minister reveals

Lord Price, who quit as international trade minister in September, told the Commons 36 countries wanted to sign free trade agreements

BRITAIN has already agreed free-trade deals in principle with dozens of non-EU countries – ready to take effect the day after Brexit Day in March 2019, an ex-minister has revealed.

Lord Price, who resigned as an international trade minister in September, said Britain had exchanged letters with 36 countries agreeing to roll-over existing EU free trade agreements after we leave.

He told the Commons International Trade Committee that the department was offering countries three options: to cut and paste existing EU FTAs; an agreement to continue on the same basis until a new deal can be reached, and a brand new FTA.

A small number of countries initially preferred the third option but changed their minds when ministers said they couldn’t start negotiations until March 2019.

Lord Price said: “Everybody I met said what they wanted to do that – and have the current agreement preserved in April 2019”.

His Brexit boost came as leading Brexit-backing businessmen told chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier there was “no way the UK is going to reverse its decision on Brexit”.

Ex British Chamber of Commerce chief John Longworth told the French bureacrat that “no trade deal is better than a bad trade deal” and said the 17.4million Brexit voters would “not be prepared to negotiate away our newly-won economic freedoms” to secure a trade deal with the EU.

Mr Longworth suggested that Mrs May’s hopes of a bespoke deal with the EU would be dashed by Brussels.

“It is very clear that the idea of a special relationship deal that the Prime Minister keeps talking about is out of the question,” he said.

Mr Longworth and fellow pro-Brexit businessman Lord Jones showered Mr Barnier and his aides with a hamper of British gifts.

The hamper included British wine, gin, cheese, marmalade, Marmite and PG Tips tea as well as the complete works of William Shakespeare and a biography of Sir Winston Churchill.

January 11th, 2018: The Sun