Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that she intends to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signalling it will leave the bloc, at the end of March.
This would appear to put the UK on collision course with the EU who believe that Britain would not be able to begin negotiations on trade deals until after it has left the bloc.
However insiders have indicated to Express.co.uk that the rules state that talks can take place, it is only the actual signing of any trade agreement which would be agains the rules.
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing St
One source told us that Britain was looking for a “global approach” to the trade deals it was looking at doing.
Shanker Singham, director of economic policy at the Legatum Institute think tank in London, said: “From a legal standpoint, there is a lot the UK can do in terms of scoping and negotiating new trade agreements while still in the EU.
May's Brexit speech: Europe reacts
Tue, January 17, 2017
Politicians and celebrities tweet their reaction as Theresa May unveils her 12 point plan for Britain leaving the EU.
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The British Prime Minister Delivers Her Brexit Speech
“The EU obviously won’t like that. The question becomes, does the UK lose a lot by annoying the EU or are they sufficiently annoyed already that it doesn’t make a difference?”
Mrs May is due to fly to Washington later this week to meet with the newly-installed US President Donald Trump which looks set to start the ball rolling over a new Anglo-American accord.
At a recent press conference after Mr Trump’s inauguration White House spokesman Sean Spicer promised that the new era would bring about an “even closer” relationship between the two countries.
Mr Spicer said: “We’ve always had that special relationship with Great Britain. We can always be closer.”
However such talks could enrage EU mandarins at a time when the UK administration is wanting to secure a favourable Brexit deal, part of which would be a favourable trade deal with the European nations.
Brexit Minister David Davis speaking in the House of Commons
A DExEU spokesperson said: "We have always been clear that until we leave the European Union we will continue to be full members with all of the rights and obligations that that entails.
“However, once we leave we will be able to forge a new role for ourselves in the world and negotiate our own trade agreements.
“The Prime Minister has made clear that while we will continue to trade with the EU we also intend the UK to become a global trading nation, including countries with some of the fastest growing export markets."
Prime Minister Theresa May and European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker
On Monday, the European Commission underlined its warning that the UK will not be allowed to do more than discuss trade in broad terms with countries outside the EU until it has left the union.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels: “There’s nothing in the treaties that prohibits you from discussing trade,” but he added that countries can’t hold official negotiations on formal trade agreements while still members of the EU.