The UK should expect any future trade deal between Britain and the European Union to be similar to the free trade agreement recently signed by the EU and Canada.
This is according to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who told a group of European newspapers that any post-Brexit trade agreement would by definition have to differ from the status quo that currently exists with the UK being a member of the single market, and that the pact may still take several years to negotiate.
Mr Barnier cited Canada's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as a possible model for a new trade paradigm with the UK. The deal eliminated 98 per cent of tariffs on imports between the EU and Canada, but does not address non-tariff barriers to the same degree as full EU membership, with traditional rule-of-origin regulations still applying.
Greater continuity between current regulations and future post-Brexit arrangements are unlikely to be attainable due to the nature of the UK's decision to withdraw from the single market and customs union, the EU official explained.
He said: "The single market is a set of rules and standards and is a shared jurisdiction. Its integrity is non-negotiable, as is the autonomy of decisions of the 27. Either you're in or you're out."
Mr Barnier also added that a transition period following the UK's EU departure in March 2019 is likely to be possible, provided that Britain proves willing to continue to accept the maintenance of all relevant regulatory architecture and supervision during this period.
However, British prime minister Theresa May has since suggested in a House of Commons debate that a transitional agreement may not be pursued if the UK fails to determine a final trading relationship with the EU next year, explaining that an implementation period would be needless if there is nothing to implement.