Before and after the referendum I have heard Remain people say we would have to apply to rejoin the WTO, as it is the EU that is currently the member. I always said this was untrue. The UK is a founder member of the organisation. We are still members, but whilst also being members of the EU we have to allow the EU to have our voice and our vote. We suspend our own.
Last week there was a welcome confirmation from the Head of the WTO that Leave were correct. He said “The UK is a member of the WTO today, it will be a member tomorrow. There will be no discontinuity in its membership…” (when we leave the EU). “Trade will not stop. It will continue and members negotiate the legal basis under which that trade is going to happen”.
I also consulted a WTO legal expert. He confirmed that whilst the EU exercises the votes and voice for all EU states, the individual member states are not just members in their own right as well, but each member state pays its own membership subscription. This shows just how wrong it was to say we would have a long process to rejoin. We are full paying club members who will get our vote and voice back when we leave the EU.
As the WTO is an international organisation set up with the express purposes of facilitating trade and pulling down barriers to trade, they will of course welcome the UK as a leading exponent of freer trade worldwide. They will also want to help ensure a smooth transition for EU/UK trade, and will recognise it is the member states, not the EU, that pays the subscriptions.