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Britain could join NAFTA if Brexit trade deal fails: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British and EU flags (file photo)

Britain is likely to join the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) -- a trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico -- in case it fails to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

The British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that British ministers were considering joining NAFTA as part of planning for the possibility of Britain leaving the EU in March 2019 without a trade deal.

"As we prepare to leave the EU, we will seek to transition all existing EU trade arrangements to ensure that the UK maintains the greatest amount of certainty, continuity and stability in our trade and investment relationships," a spokesman for the Department for International Trade said.

"We are confident that we will find a deal that works for Britain and Europe too. But it is our responsibility as a government to prepare for every eventuality, and that is what we are doing,” the spokesman added when asked about the report.

Prime Minister Theresa May is pushing to move onto discussions about a major free trade deal with the world’s biggest trading bloc as the country is negotiating the terms of its divorce from the EU.

Last week, May announced that Britain's government wanted Brexit negotiations to succeed but it was preparing for a scenario in which they might fail.

May is said to have been playing up the prospects of increasing trade with “old friends and new partners” like China, India and Japan after the UK leaves the EU. 

“I believe it is profoundly in all our interests for the negotiations to succeed but I know that some are worried whether we are prepared in the event that they do not. It is our responsibility as a government to prepare for every eventuality," May told her Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester.

British ministers are anticipating to strike a trade deal with the US or join an existing trade alliance such as NAFTA.

This is while in July, on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, US President Donald Trump assured quick action on a trade deal between the United States and Britain despite skepticism raised by British officials. 

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The EU is Britain's biggest single export market, accounting for about 50 percent of goods exports in August. The United States was the single biggest destination for British exports, accounting for 14 percent in August.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU at the end of March 2019 after nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum in June last year.

May formally triggered the Brexit process on March 29 and divorce negotiations officially began on June 19.



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