The UK hopes to aminatain a trade deal with the EU post-Brexit
The Government insists a fresh trade deal can be achieved between both parties within the next two years that have been set aside for Article 50 negations.
However fears the UK could quit the Brussels bloc without a deal have sparked calls for a transitional period that would allow a trading agreement to be agreed over a longer time frame.
Now officials are taking a closer look at a provision in World Trade Organisation rules that could see tariffs kept at zero – as long as both sides agree.
And a Government source claimed civil servants in Liam Fox’s international trade department had been tasked with looking at whether the rules had been used by any other country in the past.
Phil Brown, a trade adviser to PWC, claimed the provision could present a possible solution which would allow a settlement on divorce terms that suits both parties to be achieved.
He said: “It is technically feasible and the question then comes down to politics.”
Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on March 29
International Trade minister Liam Fox hopes to secure a free trade deal with the EU
However the European Commission has already indicated trade talks would have to be held after a withdrawal settlement is finalised, not held in parallel.
While the UK Government insisted Article 50 makes it clear the talks should be held at the sane time.
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A spokesman said: “We are confident this can be done in the period set out in Article 50, not least because unlike other trade negations the parties will be starting from a point of equivalence.”
However this is exactly why Lorand Bartels, a law specialist at Cambridge University, claims the provision laid out in article 24 of the WTO’s general agreement on trade and tariffs would not work.
She said the clause existed to allow signatories to a set free trade agreement time in a bid to reduce barriers to discussion.
However in the UK’s case, there are already minimal barriers form the outset.
She added: “It mistakes what a transition is all about.”
Foreign Secretary and Brexiteer Boris Johnson said the rules would be “perfectly okay”
The Government faces a huge difference in opinion over whether WTO rules could harm British trade after the UK quits the European Union.
But Foreign Secretary and Brexit champion Boris Johnson said the rules would be “perfectly okay”.