Trade Chief MEP, Sajjad Karim, today challenged the Brexit no-deal advocates saying they effectively want to relegate the UK to third division status.

The comments by Dr Karim – who Chairs the International Trade Committee’s Monitoring Group for South Asia within the European Parliament – echo a leaked treasury report that emphasises the high risk to Britain’s economy if it was to exit the EU without a deal.

The document states that all the countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU or preferential access as a developing country would have better access to the single market than the UK. This would mean that Britain would have less access to the single market than countries, such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s trade status – which was delivered as a British Government initiative under David Cameron – with the EU, the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), allows originating products to be imported into the EU at a reduced or zero rate of duty. The scheme helps developing countries manage the new responsibilities that come from ratifying and implementing 27 core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.

Speaking in Brussels, Dr Karim said:

“There is great irony in the situation we find ourselves in where the countries we, the UK, have helped gain greater access to the EU could now end up having better access than us.

“The UK has always been the best friend for commonwealth countries in terms of pursuing their EU interests, but without a deal we would leave ourselves with less access than many of those countries who we used to advocate for in the EU.

“The EU is the largest trading partner of virtually every non-EU Commonwealth country we willingly supported at an EU level. Naturally they will have to drift towards the remaining EU27 countries to protect their interests and this will have a detrimental effect on our bilateral relations with such Commonwealth countries also.

“Why then would we put ourselves in this situation? We cannot allow the no-deal preachers to effectively relegate the UK from the top tier of trade to the lowest league. It simply should not be an option.”

Dr Karim was instrumental in Pakistan gaining its coveted GSP+ trade status and in 2015 was awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam – the highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country – joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.