The prime minister will set out the United Kingdom’s hardline negotiating position with the European Union in a speech tomorrow (Monday), ruling out any alignment with, or concessions to Brussels as he seeks a deal “as least as ambitious” as that struck by Canada with the EU – a deal achieved after seven years of negotiations.
The UK has just 11 months to reach a trade agreement with the EU and foreign secretary Dominic Raab has accused Brussels of trying to “shift the goalposts” in a series of media interviews today (Sunday), in which he dismissed reports of EU demands that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) oversees trade disputes in any deal with the EU.
Raab’s ‘puerile, sabre rattling’
“We all agreed that we weren’t going to do that,” said Rabb. “You [the EU] knew that, you signed up to the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on that basis. Why are you trying to shift the goalposts?
“We want to have a good positive win-win new deal with the EU. That’s not going to happen if they pull the rug, shift the goalposts.”
Raab’s comments were immediately lambasted as a showy, childish attempt to set out the UK’s position by Labour’s John McDonnell, “It is ‘sabre rattling’,” said the shadow chancellor. “It is a bit puerile.”
Johnson is ‘privately infuriated’ with EU
The 11 month transition period began on Friday night with Boris Johnson banging a gong at 11pm inside Number 10, Downing Street to mark the UK’s official departure from the EU.
“As he hit the gong with glee, he was just flexing his muscles for more combat with the UK’s now ex-partners”, reports the Guardian, saying the PM’s team face a “herculean task” to reach a deal or, if they do not, “the UK will face a cliff-edge descent into the economic unknown.”
Johnson is “privately infuriated” with attempts by the EU to frustrate a comprehensive free trade deal, believing Brussels has been “changing the terms” of the deal agreed last year, according to the Telegraph.
It means the UK is “no longer wedded to a Canada-style agreement” and would be a “major hardening in the Government’s Brexit strategy”, say the Telegraph.
‘Two likely outcomes’ – Canada or Australia
“No achievement lies beyond our reach,” the PM is expected to say about the imminent trade talks in tomorrow’s speech, with the Independent quoting a government source, saying: “There are two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both.”
Australia currently trades with the EU under a 2008 partnership that applies tariffs to some goods. It is being negotiated towards a free trade agreement, whilst Canada’s deal with the EU cut 98% of tariffs on goods, but impacted little on financial services – and took seven years to negotiate.
The Telegraph report Johnson is planning to impose full custom and border checks on all goods entering the UK from the end of 2020, quoting a Whitehall source, who said: “We are planning full checks on all EU imports – export declarations, security declarations, animal health checks and all supermarket goods to pass through border inspection posts.
“This will double the practical challenge at the border in January 2021.”
‘Johnson either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the damage’
It will hit business hard, according to the director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, Adam Marshall, who warned: “Costs add up with every additional procedure or delay – and every pound spent on new compliance measures would be a pound less for training, equipment or securing new customers.”
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Johnson either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the damage the Brexit deal he is proposing will do to the country.
“It would weaken workers’ rights, consumer and environmental standards, and lead to significant barriers to trade with the EU,“ continued the favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. “By choosing to pursue a hard Brexit, he will also ensure that the Northern Irish economy becomes more detached from the rest of the UK.”
Taoiseach tells ‘everyone – tone down the nationalistic rhetoric’
Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appealed to the UK government not to repeat the same past mistakes and to “tone down the nationalistic rhetoric”, on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“One thing I’d say to everyone is let’s not repeat some of the errors that were made in the past two-and-a-half years, let’s not set such rigid red lines that it makes it hard to come to an agreement and let’s tone down the kind of nationalistic rhetoric,” said Varadkar, whose future as Ireland’s leader will be decided in Saturday’s (February 8) general election.