Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Boris Johnson to ditch cabinet ministers who don’t commit to no-deal Brexit

Brexiteers want a Canada-style Brexit deal with the EU but the negotiator behind that deal says it's not good enough for Britain

Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson wants a Canada-style trade free deal, but even the negotiator for that deal has slammed it as a bad idea for Britain. Reuters
Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson wants a Canada-style trade free deal, but even the negotiator for that deal has slammed it as a bad idea for Britain. Reuters

Boris Johnson, the front runner for the Conservative leadership, has warned that he will not appoint top rank ministers who cannot embrace his vow to leave the EU by October 31 even if a deal has not been done with the EU.

Mr Johnson said that there is a “very, very, very small possibility” of no deal actually happening, but wants assurances that every member of his Cabinet, if he wins the race for the top job, must sign up to Britain leaving the EU on 31st October regardless of whether a deal is agreed or not.

The declaration in an interview with the Conservative Home news-site was read as meaning prominent figures such as Rory Stewart and Amber Rudd, who want a negotiated exit, would be purged. Mr Stewart himself took to Twitter to say the remarks illustrated why he would not serve under Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson said the extension of the original leaving date of March 29 had unleashed a new form of political disruption that had to be recognised.

“I think that people expected us to leave. The fact that we missed two deadlines has led to the growth, the puffball-like growth both of the Brexit Party, but also of the Liberal Democrats,” he said. “And they are feeding saprophytically, like puffballs, on the decay in trust in politics. That’s where they’re getting their strength from.

“And they will continue to thrive until we get it done. And if we fail again, if we kick the can down the road on 31st October, if we continue to delay, if we treat this as a fake deadline, just yet another rigmarole, then I think the voters will be very frustrated indeed.”

Meanwhile Mr Johnson’s suggestion that there is a straight-forward means of delivering a Canada-style free trade deal between Britain and the European Union during Brexit was ridiculed by a leading trade negotiator

Jason Langrish, one of the architects of the Canada-EU trade deal, said the widely admired agreement took 7 years to negotiate.

“It’s not a solution to replace what Britain has. It’s better than a no-deal or hard Brexit but it is not a replacement for it,” said the Canadian official.

The agreement removed 98% of all tariffs on goods traded between Canada and the EU have become duty free and tariffs set to be removed within seven years.

It also means Canadian companies can pitch for rail contracts and eliminates red tape but Mr Langrish himself described the outcome as only “moderately successful”.

“I hear from Brexiteers say why can’t we continue frictionless trade with a Canada style trade deal,” he said.

“Overtime there’s going to be a divergence [between the UK and the EU], so what kind of framework will manage that process?”

Brexiteers say the UK could become a low regulation economy modelled on Singapore in a post-Brexit future, with tax breaks for businesses in a bid to attract investment.

“Europe won’t accept that – and that’s under a managed trade scenario,” said Mr Langrish.

He warned that Britain falling out of the EU with a no deal Brexit on the 31 October, the current deadline agreed by EU leaders and Britain’s outgoing prime minister Theresa May, will be a “hammer drop on day one.”

However, Canada’s former trade negotiator said a no-deal Brexit or a hard-Brexit, referred to by politicians as a complete breakaway from the EU, won’t happen.

Instead, he says, a general election is likely to happen before October 31. And that’s because of one man leading the race to become Britain’s next prime minister.

“Boris Johnson doesn’t have the guts to carry out a no deal Brexit,” said Mr Langrish.

The former negotiator slammed British politicians supporting a no-deal Brexit for losing “logic” and said the idea of holding a referendum on EU membership was “a bad idea on complex policy”.

Speaking in London, Mr Langrish said the question of the UK’s only land border between Northern and the Republic of Ireland was “ignored” and sees grave problems ahead.

Some British politicians, including Mr Johnson, have advocated for technology to allow seamless movement of trade and goods between the border to continue.

“Tech is great. But why haven’t the US and Canada put these so called ‘tech’ on their borders if it were available”

“We have a good border with the US but it is not frictionless.”

He also warned Canada, Australia and other countries could effectively destroy British farmers as Britain, the smaller country against larger countries with natural resources, would have to concede on importing cheap, low quality meat as part of a free trade deal.

“All the farmers who voted for Brexit will lose access and go ‘wait a second, Canadian beef will come into the market’? that’s just the tip of the iceberg, wait till we talk to the Australians and new Zealanders. What do you think the reaction will be to that?”

“And what do you think the reaction will be to Indian demands that they have free movement to work in the UK? Is that the same as what the Brexiteers voted for? Its entering dangerous territory.”

Mr Langrish added that a trade-deal with Britain was not Canada’s top priority as the relationship between the two countries was “not important, to put it bluntly”.

“I’m waiting for when a dose of realism will come,” he said.

If Britain and Brexiteers had not heard Canada’s view, perhaps now was the time to hear a blistering analysis.

“It is not in Britain’s interest to carry on like this without a political and public majority. There’s nothing close to consensus right now. What is the point of negotiating anything?”

Updated: June 28, 2019 05:03 AM

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