Britain, EU could strike trade deal within a year, says Brexit chief

Updated 2017-12-11 11:01:14 Xinhua
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 8, 2017.  (Xinhua/The European Union)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 8, 2017. (Xinhua/The European Union)

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Sunday the odds of Britain exiting the European Union without a deal had dropped dramatically following an agreement both sides reached in Brussels on Friday.

In a Sunday media interview Davis said the deal struck by Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday was a statement of intent and not legally enforceable. It's aim, he said, was to move to the next phase of negotiations with EU negotiators.

Without the landmark progress made in Brussels, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would not have been able to recommend this week's meeting of the European Council to agree to talks on Britain's post-Brexit relationship moving to the next important phase.

Davis wants to secure a free-trade deal with no tariffs when it leaves the EU. In the interview he described it as "Canada plus plus plus" deal. This was a reference to a free trade deal struck between Canada and the EU, but Davis wants Britain's EU deal to include financial services included in the tariff-free area. This is seen as critical to protect a lucrative sector for Britain, particularly the City of London and the multi-billion dollar banking cluster in London, both a key part of the British economy.

Davis said he wanted a bespoke Brexit deal with the EU, saying: "We'll probably start with the best of Canada, and the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits that are missing which is the services."

He also said he believes Britain and the EU can strike a substantive trade deal within a year.

Britain is also committed to keeping a frictionless and invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, said Davis, adding a way would be found to achieve this in the event of a "no deal" Brexit.

Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the main opposition Labour Party, said in a Sunday interview said he wanted a partnership with the EU that retains the benefits of the European single market and the customs union.

May is scheduled to hold a formal meeting of her cabinet, comprising her senior ministers, within a few days to discuss the progress on Brexit talks. Britain has agreed a divorce deal of around 39 billion pounds (52.2 billion U.S. dollars) to leave the EU, but a final settlement will only be paid if a future trade deal is agreed by both sides.

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