Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels.
EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market.
Publicly, the EU’s negotiating guidelines still state that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”. Behind closed doors the position taken by Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly. The latest draft of a potential transition deal says that Britain will be able to both negotiate and sign trade deals during the period.