As we head into phase two of Brexit negotiations after having agreed on the issues of phase one ( Have we? Really? That’s a red line is it? ) it is timely to recall who said what about trade deals and expose the contradictions and down-right lies bandied about during the Referendum campaign and after; and to consider some other interesting facts.
But, do bear in mind, the deal struck last Friday is, according to the man responsible for leading our exit from the EU a “statement of intent” and not binding ( see The Andrew Marr Show ). Did he tell Michel Barnier that? Or, indeed, his boss?
Before the Vote
‘Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy,’ insisted John Redwood. ‘The UK holds almost of the cards in any negotiation.’ He wrote.
Tory Owen Paterson promised that it was ‘inconceivable that we won’t come to a satisfactory trade deal’. ( N.B. There are eight minutes of this Youtube interview and they’re mostly nonsense so you might just want to trust me on this one. )
Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said ‘Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market’. ( Likewise. )
‘The real risk is to the general morale of Europe,’ wrote Boris Johnson ahead of the referendum. ‘EU politicians would be banging down the door for a trade deal on Friday’.
After the Vote
John Redwood said the door to trade negotiations had ‘slammed shut’.
Owen Paterson declares that it is ‘inevitable’ that we won’t achieve a trade deal.
After the Vote But Before Trade Negotiations start
Immediately after the vote David Davis said in his essay on Conservative Home ‘be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly. I would expect … to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners. I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months.’
In the same article on access to the Single Market – ‘The ideal outcome, (and in my view the most likely, after a lot of wrangling) is continued tariff-free access. Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest. There may be some complexities about rules of origin and narrowly based regulatory compliance for exports into the EU, but that is all manageable.’
Since then David Davis has said the UK can negotiate a “bespoke” trade deal with the EU more wide-ranging than the one with Canada within less than a year. N.B. The EU deal with Canada took seven years to negotiate and it doesn’t include services, which make up the bulk of Britain’s economy, most notably financial services.
Theresa May said, in her Lancaster House speech, ‘I want to be clear that what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market.’ Nor, she went on to say, the customs union. However, she wanted tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be ‘as frictionless as possible’
The EU will be under pressure not to do a so-called ‘sweetheart’ deal with the UK, otherwise all its other trading partners will want the same treatment.
The UK economy is sixth highest in the world rankings in terms of GDP, but it’s trade is already globalised to an extent greater than our direct equivalents ( see Trade ). Who exactly we are going to do more trading with that we don’t trade with now I’m not sure, especially as protectionism rules across the Atlantic. Nor is it clear how we negotiate these new deals when we don’t have the EU market to offer and give strength to our arm, the UK is a big market, but it’s nowhere near as big as the EU.