Britain's Theresa May seeks more time from MPs for Brexit talks

The European Commission led by Jean Claude Juncker asked member states to 'refrain from bilateral agreements or discussions with the UK'

With just six weeks to go before Britain's scheduled departure from the European Union on March 29, Fox dismissed the chances of another popular vote that could overturn Brexit and also dismissed ideas put forward by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The "continuity agreement" - based on the EU's existing free trade deal with Switzerland - was agreed in December but ratified on Monday.

Deals with Australia and New Zealand have been signed, but they are mutual recognition agreements - meaning the two sides will replicate aspects of the existing arrangements with the European Union - rather than free trade deals.

British businesses are also stockpiling goods as March 29 draws nearer, when the United Kingdom will by default crash out of the block if a withdrawal agreement can not be reached.

Signing the Swiss trade continuity deal will enable ministers to declare that progress is being made, but deals with major trading partners including Canada, South Korea and Japan remain to be signed.

The agreement is created to remove the threat of additional tariffs in trade between the two countries.

Japan has sought to extract hefty concessions from Britain before Brexit, while talks with many nations have been delayed by the lack of clarity over Britain's future trading relationship with the EU.

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The EU has 40 agreements, covering trade with 71 different countries, that would need to be rolled over. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, these would need to be completed by 29 March, an ambition that many in British business now believe to be nearly impossible.

"To pretend that you could do so is a unsafe delusion", Fox said.

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said firms were now in the "emergency zone" due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, ahead of the March 29 European Union departure date.

Dr Fox arrived in Zurich last night on a flight from Dubai.

The admission, seen by the Press Association, is contained in the minutes of a meeting attended by senior figures at the likes of Burberry, Mulberry and Hornby at a behind-closed-doors event.

He has faced growing criticism for failing to sign more deals, and for appearing to criss-cross the globe to little effect.

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