Boris Johnson Walks Away From Brexit Talks

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

To be honest, I did not believe British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would actually walk away from Brexit talks after his self-imposed deadline for progress passed, but it's apparently happening.

Johnson's government released a statement this morning to say will be no more talks and they even instructed the European Union's chief negotiator to stay at home.

From Reuters:

I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade,” Johnson said.

With high hearts and with complete confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free trading nation, controlling and setting our own laws,” he added. [...]

Johnson’s spokesman said talks were now over and there was no point in the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier coming to London next week barring a change in approach.

“The trade talks are over: the EU have effectively ended them by saying that they do not want to change their negotiating position,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Technically and legally speaking, Britain will not actually depart from the European customs union until 12:00 a.m. on January 1st so there's still time to avoid a hard break regardless of what Johnson said today, but that doesn't seem likely.

Brexit talks have been ongoing for four years and there's never been a significant breakthrough because, at the end of the day, there's no such thing as a trade deal that perfectly replicates European Union membership without actually being a member. British conservatives have set their sights on a unicorn that doesn't exist in the name of nationalism.

To say Britain will trade based on the same rules as Australia is a misnomer that's meant to downplay the significance of what's coming. Australia does not actually enjoy free trade with Europe. The two have a Mutual Recognition Agreement in place that streamlines the process of gaining access to each other's markets, but Australian goods are still subject to duties and tariffs. And ironically, Australia and the European Union are currently negotiating a free trade agreement to eliminate those tariffs that will soon apply to British goods after the Brexit transition period ends.

Johnson has also said Britain will trade with Europe 'under WTO rules,' but that doesn't actually mean what he wants you to think it means. It does not mean British exports won't face tariffs because World Trade Organization (WTO) rules do not prohibit tariffs. Moreover, the WTO is more or less defunct at the moment because Boris Johnson's friend, Donald Trump. has crippled the trade body's appellate court.

Free access to each other's markets is not the only thing that will come to an end soon. Leaving the European Union also means ending the free flow of people and labor and that was the original driving force behind the Brexit vote in 2016. The political campaign to leave the union came about because British racists wanted to end the free flow of black and brown people from mainland Europe. The economic arguments they adopted were just a palatable way to sell the Brexit to average (white) Britons. They sought to Make Britain Great Again, as it were.

If Johnson stays committed to a hard Brexit on January 1st, I can scarcely imagine what that -- along with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic -- will do to Britain's economy.

  • KanaW

    The high-ups in the UK government don’t really care about making a deal. They can make money much more easily if they don’t have to worry about those pesky EU regulations. The fact that Brexit will destroy the lives of most of the proletariat doesn’t even show up on their radar.

  • Draxiar

    “The trade talks are over: the EU have effectively ended them by saying that they do not want to change their negotiating position”

    How far up his own ass does BoJo have to be to blame the EU for the UK’s departure? I reckon it’s so far up he tastes food twice.

  • muselet

    Nick Beake at BBC News:

    Boris Johnson’s public declaration that the UK should prepare for no deal did not cause great concern within EU circles.

    The immediate response came in a tweet from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said it was full steam ahead for trade talks next week and that EU negotiators would be getting on the Eurostar to London as planned.

    But the subsequent statement from the prime minister’s official spokesman that the “trade talks are over” has left senior diplomats “deeply unimpressed”, as one put it.

    Although “we’re getting used to being part of Johnson’s pantomime”, they added.

    Some EU figures fear Boris Johnson still doesn’t know if he actually wants a deal and is trying to buy time while he grapples with the Covid crisis.

    “Deeply unimpressed” is wonderfully diplomatic, isn’t it?

    Boris Johnson and the Conservatives (worst band name ever), as I keep saying, fundamentally misunderstand the power relationship between the EU and the UK. They remind me of an old Russell Brockbank cartoon of a tweedy gent reading a newspaper which bears the headline FOG IN CHANNEL – EUROPE ISOLATED.

    Those delusions will be dispelled shortly after January 1, 2021.

    Ashby, I’d like to suggest one minor correction, if I may. The British bigots (second-worst band name) are, yes, concerned about non–pasty-complected people turning up in Britain, but most of them come from Commonwealth countries. Brexit was more about keeping out all those horrible Eastern Europeans (the Poles, especially) who take construction jobs away from our lads!, work for a pittance and happily live ten to a room in squalid flats. (If that sounds familiar, that’s because bigots aren’t particularly clever or original folks.)