TASS | 31 January 2020
Russia eyes new trade agreement with post-Brexit UK — envoy
MOSCOW, January 31. /TASS/. Russia would like to sign a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom after its departure from the European Union. However, it is premature to talk about this now, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin said during a video call from London with the Valdai International Discussion Club’s expert debate on Friday.
"Of course, we would like to get a new comprehensive trade agreement [with the British side]. However, it is probably too far ahead," the diplomat stressed.
"We need to sign aviation, transport, fissile material trade and other agreements. Generally, we have already taken stock of what we can do with the UK," Kelin added. "At the same time, London has been completely mum so far because it is dealing with more important affairs."
According to the ambassador, the United Kingdom has already inked bilateral trade and economic agreements with Commonwealth countries as well as its closest partners, Switzerland in particular.
Improvement of bilateral ties
Moscow plans to cooperate with London over the next few years, however, Russian-UK relations are unlikely to improve in the short term, the Russian ambassador to the UK stated.
The diplomat noted that the future of Russian-UK relations is uncertain. "We are at the very first stages of the leadership of the new [UK] Prime Minister [Boris Johnson]. He is a very strong-willed and charismatic person, counting on a strong parliamentary majority within the Conservative Party," he explained. "This allows him to act rather independently. So far, the signals are mixed."
Kelin mentioned the latest short meeting between Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Berlin international conference on Libyan regulation on January 19. "The meeting also seems rather controversial," the ambassador commented.
He added that Moscow would outline a plan of cooperation with London for the next several years. "We cannot really discuss it in the short term, taking into account the number of anti-Russian statements and the tough stance against us," the ambassador clarified.
Kelin recalled that the UK might introduce new anti-Russian sanctions after leaving the EU. "So far, it is using the existing EU arsenal, not trying anything more," the diplomat commented. "However, there are calls for more decisive steps."
The United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union on January 31 after three and a half years of political wrangling, chaos and division that ensued after the 2016 Brexit referendum. Brexit will take place at 23:00 London time or at midnight in Brussels. An hour before this turning point in the UK’s political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent Brexit supporter, will deliver his address to the nation.
After January 31, the UK and the EU will enter a transition period meant to maintain the existing state of affairs, particularly on trade and tariffs, while the two sides negotiate a deal on future trading relations. The transition period is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. London is also obliged to continue paying membership fees to the EU budget until the end of 2020.