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Britain looks to Israel for partner in post-Brexit trade deals: report

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street in London on February 6, 2017
Ben STANSALL (AFP)
Israeli-British task force will reportedly be established to negotiate trade deals boosting economic ties

Israel and the United Kingdom will reportedly establish a working group that will negotiate trade deals in an effort to boost economic relations between the two countries following the UK's decision to quit the European Union.

According to a report by Britain's Guardian newspaper on Sunday, a two-to-four member delegation from both Israel and the UK will meet around three times per year to advance economic agreements, with the fist such meeting expected to take place by the end of March.

During a visit to Israel last week, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed strong economic ties between the two countries, briefly mentioning plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement.

"We are...building a global identity as a Britain that’s coming out of the EU and we want to build on our trading partnership with you. We are the biggest European trading partner with Israel" Johnson said during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she hopes to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, which will formally begin the two-year process of negotiating the UK's "Brexit" from the EU.

Kobi Gideon (GPO)

As a member of the European Union, all trade deals with non-EU countries were negotiated in Brussels on behalf of the entire 28-member bloc. After its Brexit, the UK will be seeking to replace those deals with new independent ones.

During his visit to the UK last month, Netanyahu and May discussed establishing a working group charged with "preparing the ground" for a post-Brexit trade deal.

Trade between Israel and the UK is currently worth some 4.9 billion GBP (approximately $5.9 billion), but British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey told the Guardian that "there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit."

"I was with Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu in London and it was clear there was the determination for this," he said, adding that "most business people in Israel look at the UK as a great place to do business, because of its culture, language, and the predictability of the regulatory and tax system."

While trade negotiations with the US will be a priority, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand top of the list of other countries that the UK believes will be willing and able to sign post-Brexit trade deals.

(Staff with agencies)

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