Ministers start preparations for Britain to become an independent trading nation after Brexit

  • International Trade Secretary Liam Fox says government will seek to ‘replicate as far as possible’ the UK’s existing commitments as part of EU
  • Says work is under way to register UK with World Trade Organisation as individual country in preparation for the day Britain leaves the EU
  • UK will need its own ‘schedule’ of WTO commitments to base its trade tariffs and quotas on  

Matt Dathan, Political Correspondent For Mailonline

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, pictured, announced the Government will seek to 'replicate as far as possible' the UK's existing commitments as part of the EU

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, pictured, announced the Government will seek to ‘replicate as far as possible’ the UK’s existing commitments as part of the EU

Ministers have started the preparation for Britain to become an independent trading nation after Brexit.  

Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary announced the Government will seek to ‘replicate as far as possible’ the UK’s existing commitments as part of the EU. 

He said in a statement to Parliament today that work is under way to register the UK with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as an individual country, in preparation for the day when Britain leaves the EU. 

At the moment the UK is represented at the inter-governmental trade regulator by the EU, which makes commitments on issues like trade tariffs and quotas on behalf of all of its 28 member states. 

Following Brexit, the UK will need to have its own ‘schedule’ of WTO commitments as a baseline from which to negotiate its own trade deals with countries round the world. 

Downing Street insisted the preparations are independent of Brexit negotiations and do not indicate or judge the kind of deal the UK is seeking to agree with the EU.  

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman described it as ‘prudent preparatory work’ to ‘establish our presence’ in the WTO once again. Britain was one of the founding members of the international trade regulator more than 20 years ago. 

In his statement, Dr Fox said: ‘In order to minimise disruption to global trade as we leave the EU, over the coming period the Government will prepare the necessary draft schedules which replicate as far as possible our current obligations.

‘The Government will undertake this process in dialogue with the WTO membership. This work is a necessary part of our leaving the EU. It does not prejudge the outcome of the eventual UK-EU trading arrangements.’ 

Theresa May, pictured at Prime Minister's Questions last week, was told by 200 company bosses to 'get on with leaving the EU' in a letter delivered to Downing Street today 

Theresa May, pictured at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, was told by 200 company bosses to ‘get on with leaving the EU’ in a letter delivered to Downing Street today 

The plans came as Theresa May was urged to ‘get on with leaving the EU’ by leading businessmen and women.  

In a letter signed by 200 company bosses and delivered to the Prime Minister today, they say it is ‘vital’ she sticks to her pledge of triggering Article 50 – the formal mechanism for divorcing from the EU – by the end of March but ‘preferably sooner’.

The Government must stick to the timetable to ‘create certainty and confidence’ for business in the UK. ‘Trade and jobs will follow,’ the 200 company bosses write in the letter.

It was organised by rival groups Leave Means Leave and Change Britain and is signed by a range of company bosses, including City leaders Dr Peter Cruddas, Sir Michael Hintze, Jim Mellon and Michael Spencer and David Cameron’s former enterprise advisor and ex-trade secretary Lord Young of Graffham. 

Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC, pictured right outside the Supreme Court, will warn judges not to defy the 'will of the electorate' or 'stray into areas of political judgment' as the case gets underway today

Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC, pictured right outside the Supreme Court, will warn judges not to defy the ‘will of the electorate’ or ‘stray into areas of political judgment’ as the case gets underway today

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin, theatre impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh and the leading entrepreneur Luke Johnson are also signatories. 

They tell Mrs May in the letter they are ‘confident that Britain can prosper outside the EU. 

‘Some of us voted Leave, some Remain. Others represent international businesses with a stake in Britain’s success.

‘What we share is a respect for the decision made by a clear majority of the British people to leave the EU, and a belief that it is now vital that Article 50 is triggered within the Government’s timeframe – no later than 31st March 2017, but preferably sooner – so that the country can get on with leaving the EU, and businesses and investors can plan accordingly.

‘Create certainty and confidence, trade and jobs will follow.’

But their letter will arrive in Downing Street as the Government’s lawyers fight to stop its timetable for Brexit being derailed by Remain supporters in the Supreme Court. 

But the letter will arrive in Downing Street as the Government's lawyers fight to stop its timetable for Brexit being derailed by Remain supporters - led by Gina Miller, pictured, in the Supreme Court

But the letter will arrive in Downing Street as the Government’s lawyers fight to stop its timetable for Brexit being derailed by Remain supporters – led by Gina Miller, pictured, in the Supreme Court

The Government’s appeal against the High Court’s decision last month that MPs must be consulted before Mrs May triggers Article 50 started this morning.  

Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC will warn judges not to defy the ‘will of the electorate’ or ‘stray into areas of political judgment’ as the case gets underway today. 

Remain figurehead Gina Miller, who defeated the Government in the High Court last month, arrived at the Supreme Court in Westminster this morning after saying Mr Write and other critics are wrong to criticise them or point out their views on the EU. 

She told the Guardian last night: ‘I think it is such a dangerous road to be going down to be attacking the judges and their integrity and their independence. They are being vilified and it is totally disgraceful.’ 

The case is expected to run for four days this week but a decision is not expected until early next year. 

If the 11 judges decide not to overturn the High Court’s decision the Government will have to win a vote in Parliament before triggering Article 50. 

It threatens delaying the Brexit process as MPs and peers have signalled they will attempt to amend or even veto the move to quit the EU despite the clear result in June’s referendum.  

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