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Brexit: Boris Johnson to seek Australia or Canada-style trade deal with EU

British Prime Minister to say UK will not align with Brussels trade rules

Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. The GCC accounts for $50.8 billion of the $57.2bn in the UK’s annual trade with the Middle East. Reuters
Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. The GCC accounts for $50.8 billion of the $57.2bn in the UK’s annual trade with the Middle East. Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday is due to set out his post-Brexit vision for his country and seek either an Australian or Canadian-style trade deal with the EU after the UK formally left the bloc over the weekend.

Downing Street on Sunday said Mr Johnson would set out how the UK will assume a new place on the world stage and outline its approach to negotiations on the future relationship with the EU, its largest trading partner.

“There is no need for a free-trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules,” he is expected to say.

“We have often been told that we must choose between full access to the EU market, along with accepting its rules and courts on the Norway model, or an ambitious free trade agreement, which opens up markets and avoids the full panoply of EU regulation, on the example of Canada.

“We have made our choice. We want a 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."

Mr Johnson will seek to placate Remain voters and opponents of a no-deal Brexit by saying that the choice in the negotiations is not between “deal or no-deal”.

It would be a question of whether Britain's future trading relationship would be comparable to that of Canada or Australia.

Canada negotiated with the EU for seven years before signing a trade deal in October 2016. It took almost another year before it was provisionally applied. The agreement keeps tariffs to a minimum.

An Australian-style deal would be similar to a no-deal Brexit, with trade on basic World Trade Organisation terms.

But the terminology has confused officials in Brussels, as Australia is still negotiating a trade deal with the EU, after it began talks in 2018.

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On Monday, Mr Johnson is expected to express his confidence that Britain would prosper, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.

He will also say that Britain’s new relationship with the EU will extend far beyond trade.

“We will seek a pragmatic agreement on security, protecting our citizens without trespassing on the autonomy of our respective legal systems.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed similar sentiments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, by saying the UK would not accept trade rules on the EU’s terms.

The opposition Labour party accused Mr Raab of "sabre-rattling", because he said the British government was frustrated over suggestions that it should align with EU rules on trade.

Britain formally left the EU on Friday at 11pm. Throngs of people who voted to leave flocked to Westminster by the Houses of Parliament in Central London to celebrate what they called Britain’s “independence day”.

Remainers were in mourning, lamenting the end of the UK’s 47-year relationship with the bloc.

The UK will now have 11 months to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU, and other countries.

The British government is optimistic that an agreement will be struck but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said it would be impossible to sign a full deal before Mr Johnson’s end-of-year deadline.

Updated: February 3, 2020 05:38 AM

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