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FOCUS - Osservatorio Brexit N. 1 - 21/06/2017

 Free Trade After Brexit: Terms and Conditions Apply

With the discussions on the withdrawal agreement not advancing significantly, a “no-deal” scenario – under which EU law will simply stop regulating the EU-UK relationship after 29 March 2019 (Brexit Day) by virtue of the fact that the UK will cease to be a Member State – is becoming increasingly more realistic. Any application of EU law in the UK will then be by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and/or the operation of a “transition period”, probably lasting until 31st December 2020. As the latter is currently part of the draft withdrawal agreement, there is no guarantee that in a “no-deal” scenario there would even be a transition period. The UK’s international trade relations after March 2019 seem no less complicated than its divorce process from the EU. The “take back control” motto of the “Leave” campaigners included all fields of UK law and policy, including trade relations. With trade agreements being an exclusive EU competence under Article 3 TFEU, the “Leave” campaign heavily criticized the impossibility of the UK to autonomously strike trade deals with third countries, and their consequent subjection to EU tariff regulations. It was thus said that leaving the EU would make Britain a more attractive trading partner. However, after more than 40 years of EU membership, it may not be as easy for the UK to reaffirm its position as an independent trading power. The points below summarise the main issues faced by the UK in defining its future trade strategy… (continues)

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