The UK is unlikely to have a new free trade agreement (FTA) in place with the European Union before it leaves the bloc in March 2019.
This is according to Britain's international trade secretary Liam Fox, who said that it would be "nice to think" that a pre-Brexit deal could be finalized, but stated that this would represent an "optimistic view of recent free trade agreements".
His comments came during a Q&A session that followed a speech on free trade during the first meeting of the UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group in Washington, DC, during which Mr Fox highlighted Britain's continued commitment to the principle of open trade.
The minister spoke out against the rise in protectionism in many parts of the world, pointing to the numerous benefits that free trade brings in terms of economic growth and greater social stability.
He also expressed optimism that negotiations for a new EU-UK FTA would be relatively straightforward, saying: "Never before have two parties seeking a new trade agreement begun with the advantages of complete regulatory equivalence and a zero-tariff environment."