Brexit trade deals: the gruelling challenge of taking back control

August 17, 2016

Brexit means Brexit is the slogan of Theresa May’s new government, but more than a month after the seismic decision to leave the EU, no one knows what Brexit means. Only one thing is sure - unpicking Britain’s membership will be a monumental task requiring years of arduous and painstaking negotiations.

“I just can’t imagine a more complicated and more difficult issue to take forward,” said Andrew Hood, a senior director at the Dechert law firm and a former legal adviser to David Cameron. “People at the heart of government were sitting down a week after the Brexit decision with an entirely blank sheet of paper.”

One former EU trade negotiator, Miriam González Durántez, estimated the UK would need at least 500 negotiators. The EU typically sends 20 commission negotiators to any round of trade talks, backed up by between 25 and 40 technical experts, she wrote in the FT earlier this year. The UK has 40 trade negotiators, compared with the 550-strong trade department in Brussels.