Theresa May has stated that the UK “will continue to back the EU’s free trade negotiations” while it remains in the EU, while also seeking to set the stage for post-Brexit free trade agreements.

The UK Prime Minister’s comments came following her first summit with other EU leaders in Brussels, which was dominated by the rejection of the EU-Canada free trade agreement (“CETA“) by the parliament of Wallonia. CETA is thought to be a potential basis for the UK’s future relationship with the EU following Brexit, although its path to ratification by the EU’s Member States has been rocky.

In the course of her comments, May stated that the UK’s ongoing discussions with third countries in relation to post-Brexit agreements “will not undermine the EU’s trade agenda“, which the UK “will continue to help“. However, these bilateral discussions have been criticised by EU officials, with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noting that the conclusion of free trade agreements is the exclusive competency of the EU.