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The EU Won’t Discuss Trade With the U.K. Until Brexit Happens

A boat decorated with flags and banners from the 'Fishing for Leave' group that are campaigning for a 'leave' vote in the EU referendum sails by the British Houses of Parliament as part of a "Brexit flotilla' on the river Thames in London on June 15, 2016.Photograph by Niklas Halle'n — AFP via Getty Images

The head of trade for the European Union says that the U.K. will not be entitled to negotiate its place at Europe’s economic table until it makes good on its apparent commitment to leave the EU.

“First you exit, then you negotiate,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the Swedish official who serves as the European Commissioner for Trade, told the BBC.


Malmstrom’s words reveal a harsh reality for the U.K., which will need up to two years to fully abandon its EU membership. Negotiating a trade agreement thereafter could take far more time, considering that Canada’s trade pact with the EU took seven years to finalize. Per EU strictures, the U.K. is also not allowed to negotiate trade matters with outside nations until it is no longer an EU member.

Malmstrom said she was “saddened” by the result of last week’s referendum, in which 52% of voters went in favor of Brexit, but “the vote was very clear.”

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