Wednesday 20 June 2018

Why Brexiteers' hopes of 'frictionless' trade with EU border on impossible

Johnson and Co should recognise untrammelled sovereignty will come at a very high cost to the UK, says Colm McCarthy

CHILE RECEPTION: Boris Johnson plays an electronic guitar made by children being taught coding by the British Council in Santiago. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
CHILE RECEPTION: Boris Johnson plays an electronic guitar made by children being taught coding by the British Council in Santiago. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

Britain's chief diplomat in Brussels at the time of the EU referendum in June 2016 was Sir Ivan Rogers and he survived just six months in harness, resigning in January 2017. Rogers was unhappy with a pattern that has persisted since that time: the UK government underestimates the complexities of withdrawal from the European Union.

Rogers has voiced regularly his frustration with the UK's conduct of negotiations, most recently in a speech at the University of Glasgow last Wednesday evening. The speech came in the same week that his former boss, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, ventured to South America in pursuit of new trade deals outside Europe. The diplomat and the politician have very different perceptions of the choices facing the UK.

Johnson is the sunny optimist: in the Chilean capital Santiago, he pronounced that 'Now we are leaving the EU, there is a chance to be more global, more outward-looking, more engaged.' He drew particular attention to the opportunities available in Argentina, Chile and Peru and expressed confidence that lucrative trade deals would soon be available in these territories. The three countries boast a combined population of 93 million, which sounds promising. Unfortunately these countries are a long way away, are not in the EU's single market and do not import on a large scale from Europe.

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