London – The UK has signed an agreement with Switzerland ensuring the trading relationship between the two nations will continue after Brexit, the British government said.
A deal between the countries was announced in December and ratified in Bern, Switzerland on Monday.
It will replicate current trading arrangements “as far as possible,” the government said when it was revealed. But ministers remain under pressure to strike further deals before Britain leaves the European Union on March 29.
“Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that we are seeking continuity for, accounting for more than 32 billion pounds worth of trade a year,” Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox said in a statement.
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“This is of huge economic importance to UK?businesses,?so I’m delighted to be here in Bern today, ensuring continuity for 15,000 British exporters,” he added.
As a member of the EU, the UK benefits from the EU’s trade deals with other nations, but it will lose those deals in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but is part of its single market.
On Sunday, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the government’s failure to secure other continuity of trade deals was an “emergency.”
“The prospect is the day after Brexit those deals will disappear,” Carolyn Fairbairn told Sky News.
May pens letter to Corbyn
The development marks a temporary victory for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is battling to pass her withdrawal agreement with the EU through Parliament.
May wrote Sunday to opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, with whom she has talked since her agreement was emphatically defeated in the House of Commons last month. She revealed Parliament will play a bigger role in directing negotiations with the EU.
“We intend to give Parliament a bigger say in the mandate for the next phase of the negotiations to address concerns that… MPs cannot be sure precisely what future relationship it would lead to,” May wrote.
She also said she hoped to have further discussions with Labour over the “alternative arrangements” to the backstop to the Northern Irish border which she is seeking to secure with EU leaders.
But she again rejected Corbyn’s calls for Britain to remain in the customs union after Brexit, arguing it would diminish the country’s ability to strike trade deals.
“I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals?” she wrote.
If no new deal has been reached with the EU by Wednesday, May will make a statement to Parliament that day, and table a motion for debate Thursday.