One of the main economic arguments used by Leave campaigners before the UK’s referendum on EU membership in June was that the UK, freed from its EU shackles, would be able to cut its own bilateral trade deals entirely on its own terms, and much quicker than as part of the EU bloc.
The UK will remain party to all EU trade agreements until it formally leaves the bloc, and cannot conduct any separate negotiations of its own. It hasn’t had to negotiate a trade deal for more than 40 years, which probably explained the Leavers’ optimism about how easy it would be.
Trade negotiators are among the most world-weary of government officials. Not surprising really, when you spend years negotiating milk and cheese subsidies only to see a deal collapse when the politicians get involved.
Two months after the referendum and the UK’s newly created international trade ministry is not launching any trade talks. Instead, it’s embroiled in a turf war with the Foreign Office over who gets to handle economic diplomacy. Its officials don’t have their own building yet.
But the UK is not the only one in limbo, the EUObserver concludes.