London, Sep 8: Britain has set up a trade working group with India to press ahead with its post-Brexit negotiations, UK minister for international trade Liam Fox said today. Fox, who had returned from a visit to India last week, told Parliament that he had held discussions with the Indian government on removing trade barriers. “We have now concluded a deal to set up a trade working group with India to look at how we will remove barriers to trade before we negotiate a free trade agreement on our exit from the European Union (EU),” Fox said. “There is nothing to stop us having discussions and scoping out future agreements,” he noted in reference to formal proceedings for Britain’s exit from the EU yet to be finalised.(ALSO READ: Britain vows to strengthen security, defense cooperation with EU after Brexit)
His intervention came a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May had told the House of Commons that India would be one of the key countries of focus in a post-Brexit trade scenario for the UK. “As we leave the EU we will forge our own trade deals. The leaders from India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore said they would welcome talks to remove trade barriers. President Xi (Jinping) also made clear that China would welcome discussions about trade with the UK,” she said. She hosted European Council president Donald Tusk at her Downing Street office today to discuss the next steps after Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23.
Tusk made it clear that it was now for the UK to take things forward as soon as possible. He said: “For the start of the negotiations – we need the formal notification, I mean triggering Article 50. This is the position shared by all 27 member states. To put it simply, the ball is now in your court. “I’m aware that it is not easy but I still hope you will be ready to start the process as soon as possible. I have no doubt that at the end of the day our common strategic goal is to establish the closest possible relations.”
The crucial meeting between the two was billed as an attempt for the two leaders to get to know each other ahead of those talks. Britain will trigger a two-year time-frame for concluding a fresh deal with the EU as a non-member as soon as it launches Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. May has indicated plans for its launch in early 2017.