LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and South Korea will sign a continuity Free Trade Agreement on Thursday to allow businesses to keep trading freely after Brexit at the end of October, the British government said.
Britain has been seeking to replicate EU-trade agreements with third countries ahead of its planned departure from the bloc but many had stalled over the uncertainty about if and when Brexit would happen after it was delayed earlier this year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took office last month, has vowed to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal, and the government said it had now signed continuity agreements covering trade worth 89 billion pounds, up from 39 billion pounds in March, Britain’s original exit date.
The British government said the UK-Korea agreement replicated as far as possible the EU-Korea trade deal and is designed to take effect when Britain has left the bloc and is therefore no longer subject to that agreement.
Last year trade between Britain and Korea was worth 14.6 billion pounds. The EU is Britain’s largest trading partner, with UK exports to the EU in 2018 worth 289 billion pounds and imports from the EU worth 345 billion pounds.
South Korean Minister of Trade Yoo Myung-Hee, who will sign the agreement in London alongside British trade minister Liz Truss, said the deal would help remove much of the Brexit uncertainty.
“In this challenging time, we took a proactive step, and as a result, our Free Trade Agreement … sends a signal to the world of our strong, collective support for free, open, rules-based trade,” Yoo said in a statement ahead of the signing.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison)