LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May’s government said it would submit legislation to parliament on Tuesday needed to let Britain pursue an independent trade policy once it leaves the European Union.
The trade bill contains provisions to help Britain in its bid to convert existing EU free-trade agreements into British ones after it leaves the trading bloc, the government said.
The legislation will also include powers to ensure British companies can continue to access government contracts in other countries and create a new trade body to defend businesses against unfair trade practices, such as dumping.
“For the first time in over 40 years the UK will be able to shape our own trade and investment agenda - and we are determined that businesses and consumers can take advantage of this opportunity,” trade minister Liam Fox said in a statement.
Supporters of the vote to leave the EU have said the freedom to strike new trade deals independently of the bloc will be one of the main benefits.
They say it will easier for Britain to strike deals more quickly with other nations, such as China, than the EU with all its member countries and their different priorities.
But critics of Brexit say Britain does not have the individual capacity to negotiate dozens of new trade deals without the EU.
The bill is part of an array of legislation that will be discussed by parliament over the next year aimed at ensuring a smooth departure from the EU.
The government will also submit another bill soon that will allow it to vary the customs duty on goods.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Andrew Heavens