LONDON (AA) - Brexit would force Britain to re-learn how to conduct trade negotiations because it has relied on the EU for the past 40 years, the country’s foreign secretary has said.
Philip Hammond said the U.K. would be “starting from scratch” because it would have to discuss new deals with each of the 53 countries with which it currently trades through the European Union.
He told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “We don't actually have any trade negotiators. We would be seeking to negotiate these 53-plus-one trade agreements from scratch because for the past 40 years, for better or for worse, the European Union has negotiated all our trade agreements on our behalf.
“We do not have civil servants experienced in this field of activity.”
The U.K. government has been vigorously campaigning for the country’s continued membership of the EU ahead of a nationwide referendum on June 23.
Hammond also used the question-and-answer session from lawmakers to reiterate that the U.K. government was broadly supportive of Turkey’s EU membership bid, a contentious issue ahead of the referendum.
He said it would be “decades, if not more before Turkey gets anywhere near membership of the European Union” and added:
"Ultimately, we have a veto. We have a veto over the terms and conditions on which any applicant country is able to join the European Union and we have been absolutely clear there can be no question of further accession to the European Union and access to free movement within the European Union until an applicant country has reached the average level of GDP per capita across the European Union.
"So no more poverty gradient in the European Union."