The government has announced that it intends the UK to become a "global Britain" following its exit from the EU, with the negotiation and conclusion of new free trade agreements (FTAs) with third countries high on the UK's agenda. This vision was also confirmed in the Brexit White Paper published on 2 February 2017, and the government's response published on 28 February 2017 (see Opinion article "Financial services after Brexit: possible cross-border models"). Countries mentioned as potential trade partners with the UK include the US, Canada, Australia, the People's Republic of China, Brazil and the Gulf states.
This article outlines the basics of reciprocal FTAs and the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules applicable to these agreements. Since the UK is a WTO member in its own right and will continue to be following its exit from the EU, WTO rules will be relevant to any FTAs that it concludes. This article does not specifically consider issues that might arise in relation to a UK FTA with the EU.