That Britain is going to need to replace a variety of trade deals post-Brexit is both obvious and well known. For the past 40 years all such negotiations have been done at European Union level – if we’re not in that then we need to go and sort things out again. However, it might not be all that difficult to do so. For a number of countries have already said that they would be just delighted to sign such trade deals with a newly independent Britain. As the Australian minister is noting today however such deals cannot be immediate:

Australia’s trade minister has told the UK that any post-Brexit trade deal between the nations will have to wait for his country to complete parallel negotiations with the European Union.

Steven Ciobo said it would most likely be at least two-and-a-half years before formal Australia-UK talks could begin, as Britain would have to complete its exit from the EU before this happened.

That doesn’t mean quite what some people think it means however.

Steven Ciobo said an agreement could only be secured once the timeline for Britain’s exit from the EU is finalised.

He argued that if Article 50 is not triggered until the first half of 2017, the deal would not be in place for at least another two and a half years.

That’s what it does mean.

At present Britain is still firmly in the European Union. We’ve not even triggered the clause which gives official notice that we want to leave yet. And once we’ve done that then the process takes two years. We seem to be 5 or 6 months from triggering that clause – thus it will be about two and a half years before we are free of the EU trade restraints we currently suffer under. And of course, it’s only once we’re free from those restraints that we are actually free to conclude other trade agreements.

But there’s absolutely nothing at all to stop us negotiating such deals at present. Making conditional agreements. we’re entirely at liberty to go around the world saying “Once we’re free of the EU then we’ll sign this agreement with you.” And if the government has any sense that’s exactly what they are doing. The correct end game being that at midnight one day we leave the EU as Article 50 suggests and by 8 am the next morning we’ve actually signed those free trade treaties with all the various countries individually. And let’s be honest about it, given that we have a sufficiency of Ministers floating around the place we can indeed ask them all to stay up for just the one night scribbling their signatures, can’t we?

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That’s in the absence of the government being really sensible and signing the Worstall Treaty:

1) Britain will have no tariffs or quotas on any imports.

2) All goods and services will face the same regulatory structure whether of domestic or international origin.

3) You can do whatever the heck you like.

4) Err, that’s it.

But then absolutely none of us expect the government to be that sensible do we – no government, any government.