The head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said today it would not be “the end of the world” if Britain failed to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, but there would be costs.
Roberto Azevedo told a British daily that although Britain would be better off with an agreement, the impact of falling back on WTO rules would be manageable.
He said that about half of the UK’s trade is already on WTO terms — with the US, China and several large emerging nations where the EU doesn’t have trade agreements.
Britain intends to leave the EU’s single market and customs union when it withdraws from the bloc in March 2019, but hopes to reach a free trade agreement with Brussels before then.
However, trade talks have yet to formally start, and without a deal, bilateral trade would likely be subject to higher WTO tariffs as well as other barriers such as increased red tape.