United Kingdom signs post-Brexit trade deal with Switzerland

Erika Holt
February 12, 2019

As we get ever closer to Brexit, ministers have indicated that MPs will get the chance to vote again on Theresa May's Brexit strategy but it is not clear when and how.

Replying to a letter from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, May agreed to more talks to break the political stalemate but stopped short of backing his call for a full customs union.

Businesses and governments are on edge because Britain is just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still has no firm arrangements in place.

However, other European Union agreements on equivalency in certain areas like agriculture and customs can not be replicated in their entirety at this stage, said a government statement.

Mr Johnson accused Mr Corbyn of trying to "frustrate" Brexit by demanding a customs union, which he said would prevent the United Kingdom from striking its own trade deals.

May's contentious Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would avoid the necessity of border checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic by keeping Britain temporarily within the EU's customs union and Northern Ireland aligned closely with EU product standards and regulations while a final trade deal is negotiated between London and Brussels.

The PM had been expected to deliver her statement on Wednesday ahead of a Commons debate on Thursday, but her official spokesman said the earlier timing would "give Parliament a couple of days to digest the content".

Britain is now one of Switzerland's biggest trading partners. "Without an orderly and practical solution for business, jobs in the vehicle industry, particularly on the British side, are on the line".

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It is also meant to postpone a revolt by cabinet ministers who want to take a no-deal Brexit off the table for good. We've now got a response from the prime minister.

May's Cabinet is deeply divided, too, and dozens of pro-EU ministers have threatened to resign, if it appears she's steering Britain toward leaving the European Union without a transition deal.

Fox had previously said Britain would be able to roll over all of the EU's current trade deals, but so far he has only concluded agreements with Chile, the Faroe Islands and Switzerland.

Corbyn's proposal has infuriated many of his own lawmakers, the majority of whom are Remainers.

There were also signs of unease in the Tory ranks at the idea of Mrs May exploring means to bring the Labour leader on board efforts for a Brexit deal.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these would need to be completed by 29 March, an ambition that many in British business now believe to be nearly impossible.

She will ask MPs for more time to get changes to the deal in talks with Brussels - but Labour has accused her of "cynically" running down the clock.

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