LONDON – The Latest on Britain’s plans to leave the European Union (all times local):
Switzerland and Britain have finalized a deal to maintain their trade and economic ties as they are — whether or not Britain reaches a deal with the European Union over its exit from the 28-nation bloc.
The government of Switzerland, which is not an EU member, says the agreement “replicates the vast majority of the trade agreements with the EU that currently govern relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.”
British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Swiss Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin, who heads the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, finalized the deal between their countries in Bern on Monday.
The accord follows a Swiss “Mind the Gap” strategy developed after British voters approved Brexit. It covers issues like free trade, public procurement, agriculture and the fight against fraud.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a compromise with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in hopes of securing a divorce deal with the European Union.
Justice Minister Rory Stewart told the BBC on Monday that differences between the two aren’t as great as some suggest, but the government can’t accept a customs union that would prevent Britain from negotiating trade deals with other countries. He says May’s agreement can achieve “a great deal of what Jeremy Corbyn is interested in without taking away that option of having other trade deals.”
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but Parliament has rejected May’s divorce deal. EU leaders have rejected any changes to the legally binding withdrawal agreement.
The impasse risks a chaotic departure that would hurt the economy.