But from our perspective, one key outcome of her speech is the announcement that the UK will seek to replace its current situation with an FTA and not with some sort of association or associate membership status. Many are likely to cheer this news—not least because it brings some clarity after months of uncertainty over objectives. But, frankly, from the perspective of companies operating in or out of the UK, it should be viewed with some alarm. Why? Because it means the UK will have to negotiate the most amazing FTA that has ever been negotiated with a very green, untested team up against one of the very best, most seasoned team of officials with the deepest bench of staff members on the planet.
Brexit also changes the relationships that the UK has with all of the existing EU trade agreement partners. These are not only the 58 existing free trade agreements, but also various preference schemes in place, mostly for least developed economies. It also means that the UK will have to reset trade relations with most of the rest of the global trade system, since the UK will need to re-establish its independent seat at the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is much trickier than it first appears.