The U.K. business minister admitted Tuesday that a free trade agreement (FTA) with Japan would not be completed in time to facilitate a cargo ship that left Britain for the Asian nation this week.
Britain is scrambling to arrange around 40 existing trade deals that have been agreed under the umbrella of the European Union before the official Brexit date of March 29.
The Thalassa Mana cargo ship left Felixstowe on Monday and is scheduled to arrive in Osaka, Japan, on March 30, one day after Britain is set to leave the EU.
Speaking to a gathering of British manufacturers and exporters on Tuesday, U.K. Business Secretary Greg Clark said fears about customs barriers and logistics delays were an "unacceptable" reality.
"Yesterday the first freighter set off for Japan with no clarity about customs arrangements when it arrives," said Clark, before admitting that FTA's with Japan and South Korea won't be complete ready in time for Brexit.
In comments that will likely upset the Brexit-supporting cabal of his Conservative Party, Clark said the threat of no deal needed to be removed by Prime Minister Theresa May.
"That is why it is so important that we should not leave without a deal, so we don't have jeopardy of those ships currently on the water not knowing how they will be treated when they arrive."
Excerpts from a speech due to be made at the annual manufacturing dinner on Tuesday night in London have been released by the manufacturers' organization, Make U.K.
Chair of the organization, Judith Hackitt, is set to tell an audience, which includes Finance Minister Philip Hammond, that: "Some of our politicians have put selfish political ideology ahead of the national interest and people's livelihoods and left us facing the catastrophic prospect of leaving the EU next month with no deal."