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School of Law

A no-deal Brexit would mean that the UK would have the same relationship with the EU as Belarus, according to new book


EU Trade Law, written by Professor Rafael Leal-Arcas, from Queen Mary’s School of Law, provides a comprehensive framework into existing law and policy in the field of international trade.

The research considers the history and context of trade laws throughout the years as a background for understanding the EU’s present role in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) framework.

The analysis reveals that, if the UK were to leave the EU on WTO terms, essentially a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, then it would share the same status as Belarus, the only country in Europe with no legal connections with the EU.

Five Trade Models

According to the research, there are five potential options for a UK-EU trade deal after Brexit. The first, dubbed ‘The Norway Model’, would mean that the UK would remain a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and also part of the single market.

The second has been labelled the Swiss Model, which means that, like Norway, Switzerland remains out of the EU but has selected access to some single market access after negotiating agreements. However, to obtain these agreements, Switzerland had to accept package deals from the EU, including elements of legislation that it was opposed to.

Another option analysed in the book, called the Turkey Model, would see some form of a customs union between the UK and EU. It would mean that there would be no tariffs or quotas on industrial goods exported to the EU, but would have to conform to the EU’s rates for imports outside the EU.

The fourth option that could be on the table is the so-called Canada Option, where there is a free trade deal with the EU, with free movement of goods and services, but this would not apply to  people, which is one of the key factors in the Brexit debate.

The Belarus option?

The final option, often debated in the media, is that of the UK leaving without a deal with the EU. This would mean that the UK would trade on WTO terms and have no legal ties with the EU. Such an option would put the UK in the same position as Belarus in relation to the EU.

Rafael Leal-Arcas, Professor of European and International Economic Law at Queen Mary’s Centre for Commercial Law Studies said: “Belarus is the only country in Europe which has no legal or political links to the EU. It is often seen as Europe’s last dictatorship, a country that nobody wants to emulate.”

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