Brexit will be fast and smooth says WTO boss Roberto Azevedo

Natasha Clark
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Roberto Azevedo attempted to calm fears (Source: Getty)

UK's transition out of the European Union will be fast and smooth and there will be no disruption to trade, the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said today.

Roberto Azevedo vowed that the UK would not face a vacuum or a disruption when it leaves the bloc and it would continue to be a member of the WTO.

Azevedo has been in discussions with the trade secretary, Liam Fox, and vowed to make the transition as smooth as possible. His comments will reassure some who fear uncertainty and repercussions on trade if Britain did not secure a trading arrangement quickly.

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"I will work very intensely to ensure that this transition is fast and is smooth," he said. "The less turbulence the better. The global economy today is not in the best shape for us to be introducing turbulence."

He dismissed accusations that the UK government did not have a plan for Brexit and said he thought there was a "major strategy". Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May again at prime minister's questions this lunchtime of not having a clear proposal for bringing the UK out of the EU.

Azevedo added:

The UK is a member of the WTO today, it will continue to be a member tomorrow. There will be no discontinuity in membership.

In an interview with Sky News the WTO boss said that he was unsure how long it would take for the UK to negotiate a new trade arrangement, but hoped that the government were handling it "in the best way they can".

Worries over a possible collapse in trade talks between the EU and Canada over a trade deal after 10 years of negotiations have raised fears that Britain would leave the EU without new trade agreements in place.

Trade will not stop, it will continue and members negotiate the legal basis under which that trade is going to happen. But it doesn't mean that we'll have a vacuum or a disruption.

If the UK leaves the single market after Brexit, some argue that the UK can rely on its membership of the WTO to govern global trading relationships. The Institute of Directors has warned that WTO rules should not be seen as an "easy fall back".

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Azevedo said last week in Oslo that the global economy could not "afford the luxury of more turbulence" and said that the quicker trade relationships were established between the EU, UK and other WTO members, the better.

May has said she will trigger article 50 in March next year, which will mean Britain leaves the EU officially in early 2019.