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UK acknowledges key trade deals won't be ready by Brexit day

Published
Protestors in costume and wearing Union and EU flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The British government acknowledged Thursday that trade deals with major countries such as Japan and Turkey will not be in place by the planned Brexit day of March 29, while the European Union's chief said he remains downbeat about Britain avoiding a chaotic departure from the bloc.

Britain's international trade secretary, Liam Fox, claimed in 2017 that by the day the U.K. left the EU, the country would be in a position to continue the trade deals with 70 other nations it has as an EU member.

But only a handful of the deals have been finalized, including one with the tiny Faroe Islands.

As for the rest, Britain's Department for International Trade said Thursday "it remains our priority to conclude trade continuity agreements with these countries by exit day or as soon as possible thereafter."

The most significant of the pending deals is with Japan. A Japan-EU free-trade agreement took effect at the beginning of February, removing hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in duties paid by EU exporters to the Asian nation.

A proposed U.K.-EU divorce agreement includes a 21-month transition phase that would keep Britain operating under EU rules while the government works out future trade arrangements.

Britain's Parliament has rejected the deal, and the government has failed to win concessions from the EU that lawmakers demanded.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday night, he doesn't have much hope a divorce agreement will be in place by March 29.

A no-deal Brexit "will have terrible economic and social consequences both in Britain and on the continent," Juncker said at a EU conference, adding he was doing his utmost so "the worst can be avoided."

But he said, "I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue."

Without a deal, British businesses will face tariffs and other barriers to trade with both the EU and third countries. May and Juncker said after their meeting that negotiators would urgently seek a way to prevent Britain from withdrawing out of the Brexit quagmire to prevent Britain from withdrawing without a smooth transition.

The Confederation of British Industry said the government must rule out a "no-deal" Brexit.

"Many companies are unaware it is not just their relationships with EU customers at risk from a no-deal Brexit, but those across the globe," said the group's director of international trade and investment, Ben Digby.

"Individual businesses trading with markets outside the EU would face tariffs worth millions of pounds being slapped on them instantaneously."

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, walks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, speaks with the media outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protestors in costumes with EU and Union flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, walks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, walks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, speaks with British Prime Minister Theresa May prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends an event at the EU Charlemagne building in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that despite constructive talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May he remains downbeat on the prospect of avoiding a chaotic exit of Britain from the bloc next month. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Protestors in costume and wearing Union and EU flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protestors in costume and wearing Union and EU flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, speaks with the media outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, speaks with the media outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May meet Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmar leave EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 21 2019. Corbyn is in Brussels to meet European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protestors in costumes with EU and Union flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protestors in costumes with EU and Union flags demonstrate about the process of Brexit outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May met Wednesday for their latest negotiating session to seek an elusive breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)