With Article 50 set to be finally triggered, what are the options for the UK’s negotiators when it comes to trade?
Well, for a start the government seems to have ruled out the two deals which were most popular with much of British industry, staying in the single market and/or staying inside the EU’s customs union.
The government ruled out staying in the single market because it is intent on reducing and controlling immigration and being in the single market involves accepting the free movement of people.
While if the UK were to stay inside the customs union, it would not be able to negotiate its own trade deals.
That really only leaves two options for the UK to negotiate: a bespoke free trade deal with the EU, or failing to reach such a deal and instead falling back on our membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Although even members of the cabinet seem divided on the issue – with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox saying not getting a free trade deal would be “bad” for Britain and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying it “would not be as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend” – the government would prefer to have a deal rather than not.
So what is a free trade deal and how does it differ from membership of the WTO?
A free trade area is one where there are no or reduced tariffs, or taxes or quotas on goods and/or services from one country entering another.
It sounds rather like the deal we have with the EU at the moment but it isn’t. For a start there are always exemptions in a free trade deal and for the UK that is likely to include fisheries and agricultural products.