What do free trade agreements mean for British businesses? Trade negotiations between the UK and the EU are negotiations, after Brexit, between the UK and the European Union for a trade deal to facilitate trade only in the absence of such an agreement. The agreement could cover (or remove) both tariff and non-tariff barriers. A free trade agreement is an agreement between two or more (bilateral) countries whose main objective is to reduce or eliminate customs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services between countries. A free trade agreement aims to promote trade – usually with goods, but also sometimes with services – by making it cheaper. This is often achieved by reducing or eliminating so-called tariffs – taxes or taxes on cross-border trade. At the end of March, it turned out that negotiations had been halted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, that videoconferencing negotiations were not feasible, and that the British side had not introduced a bill on which the parties could work.  At the end of March, the British side stated that it had shared its text, while concerns about the realism of a pre-pandemic timetable increased.  It also appeared that the United Kingdom had rejected an EU request for a permanent technical office in Belfast and stated that the request “would go beyond what is provided for in the withdrawal agreement”.  (Article 12 of the Irish Protocol states that the UK Government is “responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the [ue] law”, but EU officials “have the right to be present in all activities related to controls and controls”.  While customers are rightly focusing on the current state of negotiations between the UK and the EU, it is easy to lose sight of the impact of Brexit on the UK`s trade relationship with the rest of the world and the economic consequences for business, about 12 weeks before the end of the transition period. Talks between the EU and the UK are under way to reach a post-Brexit free trade agreement before the end of the year. The UK is seeking a “comprehensive free trade agreement” (such as the EU CETA with Canada) that does not cover fisheries, security, transport or energy.
It considers that these issues should be agreed separately if “appropriate governance agreements” were decided, not by the European Court of Justice.  If the UK government fails to reach a rollover free trade agreement, trade between the United Kingdom and that third country will return to WTO terms at the end of the transition period. In September, Trade Minister Liz Truss confirmed that negotiations with Canada have resumed, although it remains to be seen whether these discussions can be concluded before the end of the year. In addition to Canada, the government has yet to agree to roll-over-FTA with Mexico, Singapore or Egypt. Restoring WTO conditions with these trading partners will have a significant impact on businesses and sectors for which one or more of these markets are important. During the Brexit negotiations in 2017 (the withdrawal agreement), both sides agreed that trade negotiations could only begin after the UK withdrew, as such negotiations could not take place if the UK still has a veto within the EU.  For this and other reasons, a transition period was set after Brexit day to allow for these negotiations.