WTO warns it will carefully monitor ‘light touch’ approach to EU imports

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members will monitor any moves by the UK to introduce a “light touch” approach to goods entering the country from the EU after the transition period, its director-general has said.

On Friday, the UK Government said it is exploring whether to adopt fewer checks on imports from the EU for around six months.

Roberto Azevedo, WTO director-general, said while such a move is “not a no-go by definition”, the UK would have to follow strict rules.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “You have transitional periods in most of these trade deals.

“So, you may have a period where that ‘light touch’ may be part of the transitional agreement and other members of the WTO may take that as something acceptable.

“It may, however, be done in a way that challenges the rules of the WTO a little bit more and then members, I think, will be looking very carefully.

“But it is not a no-go by definition.”

Mr Azevedo said he believes there “is a pretty good chance” of the UK and EU striking a deal before the end of the transition period.

He said: “In these circumstances, the less disruption the better, the less turbulence the better.

Overall, I think there is a pretty good chance that an agreement can be reached. Again, in my view the less changes the better

“The less turbulence is the closest to what you were before.

“So in my view, if you can maintain the degree of integration and relationship that you had before Brexit, it is a less dramatic situation, of course, than if you had to go to WTO terms – which it is not a catastrophe.”

On WTO terms, he added: “It only covers a number of adjustments and those adjustments can be painful particularly for some sectors.

“Overall, I think there is a pretty good chance that an agreement can be reached. Again, in my view the less changes the better.”