The UK has struck its first deal through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a post-Brexit world, signing up to stay part of a market for lucrative government contracts with dozens of international trading partners.
According to AP, the agreement, reached on Wednesday February 27th, paves the way for the UK to retain its place among 47 WTO countries that are involved in the Government Procurement Agreement, including the European Union's 28 – soon to be 27 – members.
The arrangement ensures continuity of cross-border bidding for big-ticket government contracts, though military procurement deals are generally excluded.
A Geneva-based trade official said the agreement was a relatively straightforward step but also important for ensuring access to a combined market valued at over $1.7 trillion.
Britain still faces unresolved issues when it comes to access for its goods and services markets after its withdrawal from the EU, scheduled for March 29th.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May now says she will give British lawmakers a choice of approving her divorce agreement, leaving the EU on March 29th without a deal or asking to delay Brexit by up to three months. A delay would require the approval of other EU members.
Speaking in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that the withdrawal agreement "cannot be renegotiated." Any request for a delay would need to be justified by "a clear perspective on the goal," he said. "We don't need time, we need decisions."
In London, the pound continued a steady rise against the euro on rumours of a Brexit delay. It closed 0.61% up, at €1.1705.