The government has said it will prioritise “free and frictionless” trade between the UK and Europe in its Brexit white paper, published on 2 February.
The policy document lays out the government’s 12 principles for leaving the European Union, including “ensuring free trade with European markets” and “securing new trade agreements with other countries”.
The government said it was not seeking membership of the single market but will pursue a new strategic partnership with the EU that includes an “ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement and a new customs agreement”.
The white paper said that in leaving the EU the UK has an opportunity to strike free trade agreements with countries around the world.
It stated: “We will be champions of free trade, driving forward liberalisation bilaterally, as well as in wider groupings, and we will continue to support the international rules-based system.”
Prime minister Theresa May said she was “not approaching the negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success”.
The government would aim for “aim for the freest possible trade in goods and services between the UK and the EU”, and a new customs agreement that would ensure it was “as frictionless as possible”.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, was cautious about the white paper: “There are reasons to be optimistic about trade and retail in a post-Brexit world. It’s encouraging that the government recognises that the UK has a role to play as a champion of free and open trade.
”However, securing a positive new customs arrangement with the EU, which enables mutually beneficial opportunities for trade with the EU and the rest of the world, will be crucial to ensuring British shoppers aren’t hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs.
“Making these stated ambitions a reality will require close partnership between the retail industry and UK-EU negotiators. In the short term, the number one priority needs to be ensuring that Britain’s exit from the EU is orderly, allowing all goods traded between the EU and the UK to be in free circulation.”