Can EU countries establish free trade agreements with the UK post Brexit?

If the UK wants free trade (that is, non tariff, non import duty trade) post Brexit with a country that is in the EU such as France, would this be permitted under EU regulations?

  • Since the UK is not part of the EU the EU doesn't get a say in who it negotiates with. France would be the one in trouble if it negotiated a trade agreement outside of EU channels with the UK. You need to rework the question to ask the question I think you intended to ask. – SoylentGray Sep 18 '17 at 14:42
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    @SoylentGray It takes two to tango, if France could not and would not enter such an agreement then by extension the UK cannot establish such an agreement. The UK can blow in the wind (they are used to that) but it would not have a partner to negotiate with at all. It's not even a matter of France getting in trouble, there will be no negotiation unless France decides to leave and destroy the EU first. In that sense, the mere existence of the EU does say something about who the UK (or anybody else interested in reaching an agreement) negotiates with: It's the EU. – Relaxed Sep 18 '17 at 14:45
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    @Charlie a free trade agreement is only a trade agreement setting no (or minimal) restrictions on trade. – origimbo Sep 18 '17 at 14:55
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    @SoylentGray Criminal law isn't a very good analogy here. Besides, it would not happen overnight without anyone noticing. There is no agreement ready to be signed putting the EU in front of a fait accompli, France would not even start discussing such an agreement, does not have staff to hash out the details or legal authority to reach such an agreement. But, as I said, France could decide to leave or destroy the EU. That still doesn't make the question very meaningful, a trade agreement would be a secondary consideration in all this. – Relaxed Sep 18 '17 at 15:17
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    @SoylentGray In what sense of “could”? Ignoring the absurdity of the idea, it's just not possible to negotiate such an agreement in secret. The treaties preclude it (and would be enforced by French courts), French law precludes it and would need to be amended in many places, even the French constitution provides that France is part of the EU and a government willing to break with it would have to start there. So France would be confronted with the consequences of this policy long before any agreement is ready to be signed and your objection to the question is still meaningless. – Relaxed Sep 18 '17 at 15:26

No, it would not, this is precluded by the EU treaties themselves (not some random regulation), would be completely unworkable and defeat the whole purpose of the single market. The EU is a customs union with a common external tariff.

Note that presently, tariffs really aren't that big of a problem. As many “hard Brexit” proponents have pointed out, WTO rules aren't that bad. What modern trade agreements (and the EU single market) are about are non-tariff restrictions, harmonising standards, services and intellectual property, reducing formalities, services (including posted workers and “passporting”), etc.

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  • +1. If it were otherwise, and France struck a deal granting (for instance) lower tariffs on UK marmalade, then there would be nothing to stop a marmalade importer in (say) Germany from importing the goods from the UK to France and from there to Germany, to take advantage of the favourable terms for France. This would make EU trade policy completely unworkable, which is why it is not permitted. – Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 18 '17 at 14:46
  • What would be the repercussions for the countries involved? I assume France would bear the brunt of any action – Charlie Sep 18 '17 at 14:48
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    There are no repercussions, because it won't happen in the first place, because EU treaties require the tariffs and regulations for importing goods to France to be exactly the same as those for importing to Germany. – Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 18 '17 at 14:50
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    @Charlie That's not a very meaningful question, there would no repercussion for any companies, France would not even talk to the UK about this at all, unless it was prepared to leave the EU. What could happen is the EU unraveling in some way but France merrily negotiating a trade agreement as if it was a minor technical issue is not a plausible scenario. Besides, as the UK is currently discovering, EU member states do not even have the staff or competencies to negotiates such agreements, it is just not happening. – Relaxed Sep 18 '17 at 14:52
  • @Relaxed my bad. Countries, not companies. Its been a long day – Charlie Sep 18 '17 at 14:52

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