The UK will not be able to roll over the EU's trade deal with Japan before the Brexit deadline, trade secretary Liam Fox has admitted.

With the 29 March date looming, the trade department has secured just seven continuity agreements with other nations, despite Mr Fox's assurance that the UK would leave the EU with 40 free trade deals in place. Carrying over the EU's trade deal with Japan was a key priority for Fox and the trade department, with exports worth nearly £10 billion a year.

Continuity agreements allow the UK to replicate the free trade deals the EU already has in place, minimising disruption. Agreements are in place with the US, Australia and New Zealand, Switzerland, Chile, the Faroe Islands, Eastern and Southern Africa, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking to the BBC, Liam Fox said: "Of course, we will get access to all the EU's free trade agreements if we leave the EU with a deal, which is the government's policy, and for all those who don't want any disruption, there's one easy way to avoid that, which is to vote for the deal which the Prime Minister has."

Reacting to the news, Ben Digby, director of international trade for the CBI, said: "Many companies are unaware it is not just their relationships with EU customers at risk from a no-deal Brexit, but those across the globe.

"Individual businesses trading with markets outside the EU would face tariffs worth millions of pounds being slapped on them instantaneously.

"It is vital no-deal is taken off the table to unlock transition, allowing the UK to remain part of these deals and provide space to agree new arrangements."