UK Trade and Investment Deals With the Rest of the World

February 12, 2019

When the UK leaves the EU it will cease to be a party to the EU’s free trade and investment agreements with some 70 countries, covering some 11% of UK trade. In the event of a "No Deal" Brexit, the UK’s trade with these countries will default to WTO terms – including the re-introduction of customs duties and non-tariff barriers – unless each country agrees to roll over its EU deal so as to apply also to the UK. The signature of such a "trade continuity agreement" between the UK and Switzerland on 11 February serves only to highlight the lack of such agreements with other major trading partners, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey. This brief summarises what is known of the status of work on these agreements, as well as new agreements with other priority countries, notably the U.S.

The UK has not been able to hold full trade negotiations with other countries for so long as it remains an EU Member State – preventing notably negotiations with the United States. It has at least been able to pursue continuity agreements of the kind now signed with Switzerland. On the basis of the information so far made public by the UK governmenti and other public sources, the status of UK negotiations with each country or group appears to be as follows.

Agreement Signed or Expected to be Signed Shortly

  • Southern African States (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe)
  • Faroe Islands
  • Republic of Chile
  • CARIFORUM states
  • Switzerland
  • Palestinian Liberation Organisation
  • Guernsey
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey

Agreement Close to Being Finalised

  • Israel
  • Canada
  • Pacific States (including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa)
  • Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland)
  • Norway and Iceland

Under Discussion But Signature Before Brexit Appears Uncertain

  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Mexico
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Egypt
  • Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

No Information Available, Signature Before Brexit Appears Unlikely

  • Morocco
  • Ghana
  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Georgia
  • Kosovo
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Tunisia
  • Algeria
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Central America
  • Ivory Coast
  • Cameroon

It should also be noted that, in the event that a Withdrawal Agreement is approved and ratified, during the transition period the UK will remain bound by the obligations under these agreements. The EU will notify the other parties that the UK is to be treated as a Member State for the purpose of these agreements. While it is assumed that the other parties will agree to do so, consent will be needed individually from each counterparty.ii

UK Negotiations With Other Countries

As noted, the UK is not legally permitted to hold trade negotiations with other countries while it remains a member of the EU (or if it remains in a customs union with the EU). However, the UK has made clear its intention to pursue such negotiations as soon as it leaves the EU. In preparation for these negotiations, the government invited public comments on what should be the UK’s objectives for four agreements identified as priorities:

  • US
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP – comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam)

The government received over 600,000 comments and intends to publish its response, as well as a summary of the consultation comments, in due course.

With under 50 days to go, the risk of a "No Deal" Brexit continues to grow. Businesses are advised to step up their preparations, for trading on basic WTO terms not only with the EU but also a wide range of other countries. Our previous briefs offer a checklist of action points and other advice.


i) Letter from the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, 25 January. (We list the countries in the order given in this letter.)

ii) Article 129 of the Withdrawal Agreement

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