The UK can sign trade deals as long as they don't come into force yet, argues Brexiteer economist

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The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. (Source: Getty)

The UK can sign trade deals before quitting the EU without breaking a duty of “sincere cooperation”, a leading Brexiteer economist has claimed.

Prime Minister Theresa May's commitment to quitting Europe's customs union means that the UK can begin talks with non-EU members, according to Andrew Lilico, executive director of Europe Economics.

However, the UK must ensure that these deals do not come into effect until after it has formally exited the EU, Lilico said.

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Writing for Brexit Central, the blog led by former Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliot, Lilico said it was “blatantly obvious” the EU should not be able to bar the EU from negotiating and ratifying post-Brexit trade deals.

“There should be absolutely no question of the UK accepting that when it leaves the EU its only trade deal must be with the EU and that it must then start from scratch negotiating with other countries from outside,” Lilico said.

“The EU might well want us to be in that situation. We should not consider it an option at all.”

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It has previously been argued that EU treaties would bar the UK from such moves.

The treaty on the functioning of the EU states: “The Union shall have exclusive competence in ... common commercial policy.”

And speaking to City A.M shortly after the referendum verdict was delivered last July, Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade at the Institute of Directors said there was “no way” the EU would allow the UK to begin trade negotiations, “because it's breaching legal obligations”.

She added: “There might be some legal room for informal discussions with countries the EU already has deals with to try to get a sense of whether those countries want to go on with that deal.”

The Department for International Trade has been contacted for comment.

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