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The UK will not 'cut and paste' EU trade deals after Brexit, says trade chief

  • Liam Fox denied that he ever implied that the current agreements would be closely replicated to ensure the British economy isn't affected by Brexit
  • The original negotiating timetable indicated that trade talks would start in October, but only if there had been an initial agreement on citizens' rights, financial settlements and the Irish border

The U.K. will not "cut and paste" existing European trade agreements once a deal for Brexit has been completed, the country's trade chief told CNBC Tuesday.

Liam Fox, the U.K.'s international trade secretary, denied that he ever implied that the current agreements would be closely replicated to ensure the British economy isn't affected by Brexit.

"I never actually said 'cut and paste' because that's not the case, because many of these (trade) agreements we have to do things like look at the quotas that were given by the European Union to some of these countries, and then to work out a way of disaggregating them, so I've never used the phrase 'cut and paste' because it's not correct," Fox told CNBC, speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Fox instead said the U.K. will try to transition deals in a way where goods and services will continue to be sold from and to the U.K. once it leaves the EU.

"These are deals that are already in place, these are agreements that the European Union has with countries outside the European Union that Britain is part because of our European membership. And the question is, can we get those transitioned to be U.K. agreements so there's no disruption in trade?" he said.

U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox outside 10 Downing Street
Carl Court | Getty Images
U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox outside 10 Downing Street

He added there had been a "positive response" from countries like South Korea, Switzerland and the United States to agree on new trade arrangements with the U.K. However, European law forbids any member to conduct a trade deal. The U.K. can only close trade deals once it's outside of the bloc, which makes the situation tricky.

'Not enough progress'

On Tuesday morning, European policymakers said that there's not enough progress in the Brexit negotiations to allow discussions on free trade. The original negotiating timetable indicated that trade talks would start in October, but only if there had been an initial agreement on citizens' rights, financial settlements and the Irish border.

"Until now, I can't say that we are ready to enter the second phase of the negotiations," Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said in the European Parliament Tuesday.

Fox told CNBC that there's been progress, mainly in the last round of talks, and that it's also in the EU's interest to kick off trade negotitations.

"I'm concerned about the fact some people describe it as a stalemate," Fox told CNBC.

"European leaders need to understand the later we get into actual free trade discussions between the U.K. and the EU the harder it's going to be to get to an end position on time and that's going to be bad for international confidence," he added.

The next round of Brexit talks is set to start Monday in Brussels.