The UK has admitted it will not be able to sign a trade deal with Japan that matches the EU’s own agreement before the 29 March Brexit deadline.
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The government is racing to replicate around 40 free trade deals before the UK’s scheduled departure from the bloc next month to fend off the dangers posed by a no-deal scenario.
But it has ruled out being able to sign one with Japan in time.
“It is unlikely that we will reach an agreement prior to exit day,” international trade secretary Liam Fox’s department wrote in a document published today.
The department also said the UK is unlikely to imitate the EU's Algeria deal before the deadline.
Theresa May’s government is yet to get a Brexit withdrawal agreement through parliament, heightening the risk of a no-deal Brexit – which would mean the UK’s existing trade deals no longer apply.
Instead the UK would crash out on World Trade Organization rules, widely seen as inferior to current trade agreements.
“It is the duty of government to produce a highly cautious list of those that may not be in place in order that businesses and individuals ensure that they are prepared for every eventuality,” the Department for International Trade said.
“It remains our priority to conclude trade continuity agreements with these countries by exit day or as soon as possible thereafter.
Read more: WTO warns of weakest global trade since 2010
“We are exploring a range of options to ensure continuity of effect for trade agreements if an agreement has not been ratified and brought into force in time for exit day.”