British and Indian officials could take almost seven years to agree free trade terms following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
That’s according to new research carried out by Open Britain, a pro-Europe group that says it’s “leading the campaign against a hard, destructive Brexit”.
The organisation has looked at the amount of time it takes some of the world’s major economies to complete free trade agreements. Its data suggests India takes an average of six years and 11 months to complete negotiations – the longest out of all the countries that Britain is expected to focus its attention on post Brexit.
India, China, the US, Australia and New Zealand are all expected to be key targets once the UK is free to sign new trade deals. Open Britain suggests the United States moves fastest, taking an average of three years and nine months to move from initial negotiations to a final handshake.
However, if negotiations were carried out with each country consecutively, the process would take an estimated 26 years.
Trade deal negotiations between India and Australia began in 2007. However, India’s reluctance to open its market to Australia’s agricultural exports, and Australia’s unwillingness to further relax visa rules, mean talks have stalled.
Labour MP Peter Kyle, a leading supporter of Open Britain, said: “As new information, like the enormous length of time it is likely to take to negotiate any new trade deals, comes to light, we all have the right to ask if Brexit remains the best choice for our country and to keep open the option of saying ‘no thanks’ to what Theresa May brings back from her negotiations.”
Former EU Commissioner Lord Patten described trade negotiations as “nasty, brutish and long”, saying Britain would not be in a position to dictate terms to major economies like the US and China.
He added: “Under pressure from ministers to salvage something after Brexit, ministers risk being taken for a ride by President Trump and others who will insist we lower our food and environmental standards – and possibly open up our NHS – so that their industries can get a foothold in the UK.”