After Brexit, can the UK deal with individual countries of the EU?


After Brexit, would the UK be able to do trade deals with individual countries such as Germany, France, etc. without these deals having to be sanctioned by the European Union?

Graham John Molloy

Posted 2017-07-19T07:31:36.200

Reputation: 321



No, it won't be able to. The EU is the exclusive point of contact for trade deals with the EU and its members - or more precisely, for members of the European Union Customs Union.

Concluding international agreements on behalf of its members also is part of the EU's exclusive competences.

Edit to clarify: they will, of course, be able to negotiate trade deals with countries that are not part of the EU. Unless, that is, they remain within the European Union Customs Union.

Denis de Bernardy

Posted 2017-07-19T07:31:36.200

Reputation: 29 672

12+1. For the same reason, the UK can't conclude trade deals with countries outside the EU, until after it stops being an EU member (no earlier than March 2019). – Royal Canadian Bandit – 2017-07-19T10:12:56.293

5@RoyalCanadianBandit I'd understood that the 2 years mentioned in article 50 was a deadline for leaving, rather than the earliest date a withdrawal agreement could name. – origimbo – 2017-07-19T10:52:02.997

Yeah, but - the question explicitly asks for after the UK left the EU (after Brexit), so it is like you answer a non-asked question. – TomTom – 2017-07-19T10:52:14.073

1@TomTom: OP explicitly asks about post-Brexit UK negotiating with countries that are within the EU. – Denis de Bernardy – 2017-07-19T11:18:03.563

You are right. For those - no. Because THEY are not allowed to negotiate. – TomTom – 2017-07-19T11:19:58.863

@TomTom: there is a twist to that, too. Namely, in the (IMHO likely) scenario where the UK stays within the EU's Customs Union, my understanding is they still won't be able to negotiate their own trade deals because it's a condition for being part of the EEA.

– Denis de Bernardy – 2017-07-19T11:46:35.537

One thing is sure - this is an epic clusterf*** and a lot of people will have a fun time trying to sort that out ;) – TomTom – 2017-07-19T11:54:01.880

@origimbo: The UK will not leave before March 2019 -- Article 50 specifies a two-year leaving process. Various authorities have suggested Brexit might be delayed in some respects, or even cancelled by mutual agreement.

– Royal Canadian Bandit – 2017-07-19T12:53:47.333


@RoyalCanadianBandit Do you have a source for the two year process? The english text of the treaty is "The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2...", and supplementary material like also suggests that two years is the maximum

– origimbo – 2017-07-19T13:02:01.337


@origimbo: OK, my mistake. In theory, the UK could leave before March 2019, if a withdrawal agreement is concluded and ratified in time. But given the complexities of leaving, that is unlikely verging on impossible. The press release you link is from March 2017 -- negotiations were delayed by the UK general election and do not appear to be going well.

– Royal Canadian Bandit – 2017-07-19T13:13:55.987

4It's worth noting that Article 50 also states that at the end of the 2 year deadline if no agreement has been reached it can be extended, providing it has unanimous support from all parties involved. There is no provision or writing, however, to explain the consequences of not reaching an agreement after the 2 years. – mickburkejnr – 2017-07-19T13:36:00.137

1@mickburkejnr: The consequence is that “The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question”. – chirlu – 2017-07-19T20:27:05.230

Although note that they could still conclude non trade deals - e.g. they could sign a freedom of movement agreement with France, that would only apply to people. – JonathanReez – 2017-07-20T11:35:42.510

1@JonathanReez are you sure? i think schengen regulated countries aren't free to do that, because that would grant those visitors access to the whole of EU. – CptEric – 2017-08-01T09:44:42.357

@CptEric yes, long term visitors are not regulated by the EU – JonathanReez – 2017-08-01T09:53:22.650

@CptEric But it is only EU citizens who have the right of free movement Both Britain and France currently take lots of migrants from outside the EU. But those people do not have the automatic right to move elsewhere in the EU unless they have become EU citizens. Schengen deals with the borderless arrangements between its member states. – WS2 – 2017-09-18T22:38:10.893

1@WS2 That's what i said. UK can't sign a open border deal only with france, it would have to negotiate it with the whole schengen-controlled EU. – CptEric – 2017-09-19T06:11:56.707

@CptEric What I was focused upon were your words "because that would grant those visitors access to the whole of the EU". Does the fact of the Schengen agreement mean that migrants from outside the EU have a right of residence anywhere? I know that Schengen permits people to cross borders. But does a migrant into France from, say, the Cote d'Ivoire, have the right to live and work anywhere from Romania to Sweden? – WS2 – 2017-09-19T16:19:45.193

@WS2: insofar as I'm aware, an Ivorian's work permit would usually be tied to their job (and thus location) much like H1Bs are in the US, but they could move around if they found a new job or the job required them to go there, since they already have a Schengen Visa. – Denis de Bernardy – 2017-09-19T17:54:07.993

@WS2 Unless it's a 90-day tourist visa, yes. Freedom of travel and work on all countries, independent of the issuer. if it's a 90-day tourist visa, you must spend 33% of that time in the issuing country. – CptEric – 2017-09-20T06:08:14.500


No, as trade deals involving changing tariffs can be thought of as customs deals. Countries in the EU are in a customs union and have a common external tariff for goods, and so any changes to that tariff need to be made at the customs union level. Indeed, one of the main reasons given during the campaign for leaving the EU was the ability to conduct trade deals with non-EU countries which being in the EU didn't allow the UK to do. If the UK could sign a trade deal with Germany once the UK has left the EU, then it would stand to reason that Australia (to give an example) could sign a trade deal with the UK without the UK leaving the EU.

If countries in the EU customs union were able to make trade deals with third countries to import goods tariff free, then you would have issues where all goods moving from (say) Germany to France would have to be checked at the French border to check whether they originated in Germany and were therefore tariff free, or originated from a third country (say the UK post-Brexit) and therefore attracted a tariff for their movement into France. This would negate the entire point of the customs union, which is to remove those customs checks at borders.

Being a member of the single market is different and doesn't prevent a country signing trade deals with third countries (for example, Iceland and China recently signed a trade deal). Countries in the EEA are in the Single Market but not in the EU Customs Union (Switzerland is in a customs union with Liechtenstein but that is separate and goods moving from Germany to Switzerland go through normal customs procedures).


Posted 2017-07-19T07:31:36.200

Reputation: 160


No, the EU countries do collective trade deals.

However, there are plenty of countries outside the EU itself that we can do trade deals with - including the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) that comprises countries like Iceland and Switzerland.


Posted 2017-07-19T07:31:36.200

Reputation: 101