BORIS Johnson has told the EU he will pull the plug on any trade deal if it means following Brussels rules, in what allies have dubbed his “Mad Man” strategy.
The PM issued the threat as the EU’s negotiations boss Michel Barnier laid out a stringent series of tough terms that the UK must meet.
An agreement must be in place by the end of the 11 month-long transition period that expires on December 31 or both sides face punishing trade quotas and tariffs on exports.
Laying down the gauntlet, Boris declared: “We have made our choice; we want a comprehensive free trade agreement, similar to Canada’s.
“But in the very unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.
“The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s – or more like Australia’s.”
The Australia reference was seen as a thinly veiled threat for no deal at all, as the country only trades with the EU on WTO terms with big tariffs.
Brexit to-do list
BORIS Johnson faces an extraordinary array of Brexit challenges that all must now be completed in 11 months.
The transition period, under which the UK agrees to abide by all Brussels rules in exchange for almost all membership benefits, began at 11pm on Friday night when Britain left the EU.
But the PM has insisted it must only last until December 31 this year.
That leaves ministers having to implement a far-reaching series of new rules and systems to oversee tasks that were previously all under Brussels’ orbit, with the clock now ticking.
Among the list of tasks, Boris’s government must:
- strike a new future partnership agreement with the EU that encompasses a Canada-style zero tariffs trade deal as well as shared crime fighting arrangements,
- roll over 20 outstanding trade deals that the EU currently has with the rest of the world but the UK will be excluded from,
- draw up and implement a brand new Australian points-style immigration system to end EU free movement,
- erect new cross-Channel inspection posts in border ports to monitor the number and standards of goods coming in from the EU,
- draw up a new regime to control fishing in the UK’s waters and doll out quotas to foreign vessels,
- devise and roll out a new regime for Britain’s agriculture, including how much to pay farmers in subsidies,
- agree on and enforce a new national system of policies to protect the environment, as well set up the UK’s own watchdogs.
Explaining the PM’s hard line, one senior ally dubbed it “Mad Man” strategy that he used to broker a new exit deal with Brussels against the odds five months ago.
The ally told The Sun: “Will he walk away? You just never know. That is what we want the EU to wonder, and that is what worked last year”.
The PM chose the symbolic location of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on Monday to lay out his vision of a free-trading Britain post-Brexit in a major speech.
In it, he also revealed he has given orders to negotiate multiple deals at the same time.
Heaping more pressure on the EU, he declared the government is “ready for the great multi-dimensional game of chess in which we engage in more than one negotiation at once”.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will lay out Britain’s negotiating plan for a US trade deal later this week.
And talks will also open soon with Japan, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Commonwealth countries.
EU DEMANDS DECLINED
Mr Johnson also insisted he will not agree to the EU’s demand for a level playing field of rules for the government, from workers’ rights, environmental standards and state aid for failing companies.
He called it “an absurd caricature” to suggest that Britain would “engage in some cut throat race to the bottom”, and argued that the UK’s standards are often superior to the EU’s.
Mr Johnson scoffed: “As if it was only thanks to Brussels that we are not preparing to send children back up chimneys.”
Instead, No10 said Boris was prepared to sign up to global standards in all the policy areas, along the lines of what Canada or Japan had agreed with the EU in their deals.
Boris also ruled out granting the EU permanent access to the UK’s fishing waters – another key Brussels demand laid out Monday – and decreed there would be annual talks to set quotas for Europe’s boats instead.
The PM insisted: “British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.”
BRUSSELS’ BINDING CONDITIONS
Speaking in Brussels Monday, Mr Barnier said a trade deal is “inextricably linked” to binding commitments on competition, labour, and environmental rules.
Unveiling the bloc’s hardline mandate, the Frenchman also vowed there will be no free trade agreement unless the EU gets full fishing access to our waters.
And he said euro judges would have to be involved in policing the agreement where matters relating to EU law arise from it.
Mr Barnier said his plan for a tariff- and quota-free free trade agreement with “wide sectoral coverage” for services was an “exceptional offer” without precedent.
He said: “We are ready to offer all this, even though we know that there will be strong competition between the UK and the EU in the future”.
Mr Barnier also listed three conditions for ongoing security cooperation with EU counties.
He said Britain would have to stay in the European Court of Human Rights, set up strong data protection rules, and allow a “role in full” for euro judges.
Mr Johnson won praise from free trade backers.
The Sun Says
WE know it’s only their opening gambit. Even so, the EU’s demands from newly independent Britain are laughable.
They represent an almost childlike refusal to recognise what happened last Friday at 11pm.
Brussels will not be able to bully Britain into signing over the fishing access we currently enjoy.
Nor insist we obey its standards, its rules and its court’s judgments. We might as well counter-argue that it must stick to OURS and bow before our Supreme Court.
Boris Johnson will negotiate not as a supplicant but an equal partner. If that leads to no trade deal, so be it.
Britain must prepare for the thinnest of deals, or none.
And the Government is wise to begin parallel negotiations with other countries at once.
Those will aim to reach mutually beneficial agreements, without either side placing impossible restrictions on the other. The EU’s motivation is entirely different — and far more cynical:
Limiting its own Brexit damage while trying to hobble a Britain whose potential now scares Brussels to death. And with good reason, if other firms follow Nissan, reportedly preparing to shift its EU manufacturing to Sunderland.
Voters back a clean break if need be. And there is no aspect of our sovereignty Boris can, or should, give up.
The sooner Michel Barnier and his bosses grasp that, the better.
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Shanker Singham insisted that “control of our regulatory handbook is vital if the UK is to have the freedom to negotiate simultaneously with the EU and other trading partners”.
But business groups called for more detail, with the Institute of Directors’ Director General Jonathan Geldart saying: “Businesses are less interested in the rhetoric. The UK can’t just stick to red lines, it needs to set out positive, practical steps to what it wants”.
Acting Lib Dem leader Ed Davey accused the PM of planning “no deal in all but name”, adding: “Paying lip-service to free trade after taking us out of the largest free trade zone in the world is nothing short of hypocrisy”.
Bojo solid on Rock EU deals
THE PM on Monday slapped down Michel Barnier over the EU’s attempt to split Gibraltar off from Britain in trade talks.
Boris vowed to only negotiate “on behalf of the entire UK family”.
He was enraged after the EU’s negotiating stance revealed it will hand Spain a veto over future deals if they affect Gibraltar. Mr Barnier said Spain “would have to be involved”.
Mr Johnson replied that: “The sovereignty of Gibraltar remains indivisible.”