Pascal Lamy on Brexit: 5-6 years to negotiate a comprehensive EU-UK Free Trade Agreement

On 16 March 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by former head of the World Trade Organization and former European Commissioner for Trade, Pascal Lamy, at the Institute for Government.

One of the key points discussed by Mr Lamy concerned the fact that any agreement other than remaining in the single market would be costly. Once the UK leaves the EU, compliance with regulations and customs procedures will lead to increased costs for both sides. He reflected on how incurring these costs might shift the pro/anti-Brexit sentiments in the UK.

According to Mr Lamy, a continuation/transitional agreement will be required because a comprehensive EU-UK FTA will take a minimum of 5 to 6 years to negotiate.

Mr Lamy also offered his cockpit view on the complexity of negotiating a post-Brexit scenario, dividing the issues into three groups:

1) The ‘relatively straightforward’ category included establishing an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement on goods and the division of the WTO schedules and quotas.

2) Environmental provisions, public procurement and trade defence actions such as anti-dumping were in the ‘fairly complex’ category.

3) Finally, Mr Lamy listed standards (technical, safety and security) and their mutual recognition and equivalence together with indirect and direct taxation and IP rights as the most complicated issues to be negotiated over the next couple of years.

You can watch a recording of the event here.