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While the negotiations between the UK and the EU are currently front-page news, what happens to treaties and agreements UK is automatically a party of by virtue of their EU-membership?

Are there important agreements and treaties that need to be negotiated to allow a post-EU UK to trade with other countries, especially members of the G20?

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Any deal that the UK is part of as part of the EU will not apply to the UK after the UK leaves the EU. Researches at the LSE note:

Trade policy for EU Member States is conducted exclusively at the EU level. In case of Brexit, all the EU trade agreements of which the UK is automatically part as an EU member state would need to be re-negotiated on a bilateral basis.

An example is the recent EU-Japan free trade deal, that eliminates or reduces tariffs in a number of areas while allowing for restrictions on, for example, geographical protected names to apply across the EU and Japan. The UK is under pressure from businesses (local and in Japan) to form a trade deal that is substantially the same as that agreed between the EU and Japan.

For example representatives of a law firm said:

There will of course be strong pressure on the UK to replicate the EU’s agreement with Japan as part of its own web of new bilateral trade agreements.

Note this implies that the UK will have to develop a "web of new bilateral trade agreements". In principle, this should be straightforward, if both sides just agree to replicate the agreement that already exists. In practice, all trade deals are exceptionally complex, and while there is no agreement even on the customs arrangements between the EU and the UK, third countries have not been keen to enter into detailed talks.

For example, South Korea has an extensive free trade agreement that came into force in 2015. It has warned the UK government that the conditions of the deal would not apply after 2019, and has asked for concessions from the UK in negotiating a new deal. Essentially Korea sees the UK as being in a weakened negotiating position which allows the Koreans to demand more from the UK in return for the free trade agreement.

The UK could trade with all the G20 countries under existing WTO rules, no country will actually block trade with the UK. However, unless there are free trade agreements in place, tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade will exist.

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  • I'm curious if you could expand your answer with something about the Commonwealth. The UK presumably has some traditional friends in that respect: Canada, Australia etc. Have they been silent? – Fizz Aug 6 '18 at 17:30
  • I see the press is full of articles on this and there's even thecommonwealth.org/sites/default/files/news-items/documents/… so that probably needs its own question. – Fizz Aug 6 '18 at 17:37
  • @Fizz I'd be interested in seeing an answer to those questions, but my understanding at the moment is that the Commonwealth is not an organised collection of nations, and as such will negotiate trade deals individually with the UK post Brexit. No current "special" trade relationships can exist between the UK and other Commonwealth countries, as all current UK trade relationships are done under the EU umbrella. – Jontia Aug 9 '18 at 12:43
  • One thing that is worth including in this article is that cases, where there are quotas as part of trade deals, are very tricky to resolve. For example, if the EU could export 1Million cars to the US tariff-free (which is not a real example) what would happed after the UK left. How would the quota be split? – Jeremy French Aug 16 '18 at 14:03
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If the UK decides to stay in regulatory alignment with the EU (i.e. take all current and future EU regulations) it might be able to agree with other countries to adopt existing EU trade deals.

If the UK diverges then it will be necessary to create new trade deals accounting for the differences.

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