David Davis demands the UK be allowed to sign trade deals during post-Brexit transition period
Britain must be allowed to sign trade deals with other countries during any post-Brexit transition period, David Davis will declare today.
In a major speech, the Brexit Secretary will accept that the UK will effectively remain in the EU customs union for up to two years after 30 March, 2019.
But he will insist that the Government must be able to strike trade agreements with other nations - although they would not come into effect until after any transition period ends.
Mr Davis's remarks are likely to anger Brussels officials, who have stressed that the UK cannot agree its own trade deals while still following the rules of the EU.
But Mr Davis will say: "As an independent country, no longer a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom will once again have its own trading policy.
"For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be able to step out and sign new trade deals with old friends, and new allies, around the globe.
"Increasingly, we are trading with the key emerging markets of the world in Asia and the Americas. The UK’s fastest growing export markets between 2005 and 2014 included countries like China and Brazil. And we will be able to do so much more with them, when we are an independent trading nation, outside of the EU.
"Of course, maintaining access to each other's markets on current terms means we will replicate the effects of the EU customs union during the implementation period. But participating in a customs union should not preclude us from formally negotiating — or indeed signing — trade agreements.
"Although, of course, they would not enter into force until the implementation period has ended."
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, Mr Davis acknowledged "there may well be an argument" with Brussels over the issue.
He said: "There are people within the union who want to restrict any advantage for us."
Mr Davis's speech comes a day after Philip Hammond sparked a furious Tory backlash by suggesting Brexit would only result in "very modest" changes in Britain's relationship with the EU.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Chancellor said that business pressure group the CBI was right to call for the “closest possible relationship between the EU and UK post-Brexit”.
In a speech, he declared: “We are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly apart.”
But Mr Hammond was slapped down by Downing Street, with a Number 10 source saying: "The Government’s policy is that we are leaving the single market and the customs union.
"Whilst we want a deep and special economic partnership with the EU after we leave, these could not be described as very modest changes."