Britain is currently chasing potential deals and leads around the world in preparation for its exit from the EU. The country will officially transition out of its current commitment to the EU by the end of the year. Negotiators from the UK and EU are still trying to strike a post-Brexit deal.
Yesterday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak agreed to develop closer financial links between the UK and Switzerland.
The fresh boost saw Mr Sunak sign a joint commitment with his Swiss counterpart, Ueli Maurer, to work on a new international financial services agreement.
Treasury officials said the move proved the Government’s ambition for the UK to cement its role as an international financial centre once fully independent of Brussels next year.
Further afield, last month, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, and the UK’s trade minister, Liz Truss, agreed on an economic partnership to secure business continuity.
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Britain is currently carrying out what it was expected to from the offset: strike deals with countries outside the EU 27.
Not everyone had this image in mind, with several politicians arguing that the UK might not even leave in the first place.
One proponent of this was Lord Heseltine, the Tory peer who was once deputy Prime Minister under John Major.
Talking to LBC radio in 2017, he reiterated his belief that it was “very possible” the UK would never leave the bloc – despite Article 50 already having been triggered and negotiations well underway.
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He believed Parliament would vote down the final withdrawal bill in 2019 – which passed in January 2020.
Asked why he believed so strongly that the UK would remain, he said: “Two things. One, that public opinion changes – which it hasn’t done yet – and secondly, that Parliament, which is the sovereign body of our country, just hasn’t got the stomach for it, so there will not be a majority for it, and a way will be found to upset the present Article 50 procedure.
“They know perfectly well that we are a major part of the European economy, our economy is totally integrated with them, they are a major supplier, but the interesting thing about those statistics of course is that while 40 per cent of our trade goes to Europe – which makes us very dependent – but coming the other way, for any one country within Europe, the figures are dramatically smaller.”
When it was put to Lord Heseltine to accept, hypothetically at the time, that the UK would end up leaving, he insisted that the country would rejoin in the future because the majority of younger people either voted to remain or did not vote in the referendum.
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On this, he said: “If you look at the age groups, the elderly voters are pro-Brexit, once you get down in the new voters, the middle ages and below, then they are very anti-Brexit.
“It’s a generational issue and that is not particularly convenient for my party but yes I’m absolutely sure that in future generations the absolute, historic, inescapable fact of our relationship with Europe will bear in.”
Lord Heseltine’s Brexit rebellion got him sacked from his role as Government adviser after demanding a parliamentary vote on the final deal to be written into legislation.
The majority of his predictions have since been proven wrong.
Brexit latest news: The UK will transition out its commitments with the EU by the end of the year
The UK officially left the EU on January 31, 2020.
A deal has not yet been struck between the two.
Should one fail to be secured, the UK and EU will trade on WTO terms.
Talks have stalled in recent months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday, however, the UK’s chief negotiator, David Frost and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, met for face-to-face talks in Brussels.
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Mr Frost, the head of Downing Street’s Task Force Europe, had a team of 20 British negotiators during this week’s round of talks, the first since Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to accelerate the process.
The two sides will hold separate sessions across five days in a bid to break the deadlock.
The EU has up until this point refused to budge from its hardline demands for a regulatory level-playing field, with a role for the European Court of Justice, and continued access to Britain’s fishing waters.
It has since vowed to be more flexible in order to strike a deal.