Britain formally triggered their departure from the European Union (EU) in a "Brexit" just two days ago, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is already threatening to walk away from talks that haven't even begun yet.
Before Britain and the EU start negotiating new rules of trade and immigration to replace free access to the European customs union, European officials say Britain must closely align itself with European rules if they want to maintain free access to the market.
For his part, Boris Johnson says his government will not align with European rules and will walk away from their upcoming talks and accept tariffs on British goods if he has to.
Johnson also apparently has delusions of grandeur beyond what I imagined.
Johnson said he would not [align with European rules], in a speech that harked back to Britain’s past trading successes, promising that his government would again be a champion of free trade and jealously guard his country’s new-found “sovereignty”.
“Humanity needs ... some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with his cloak flowing as the supercharged champion of the right of populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other,” he said, referring to Superman’s alternate character.
Even Trump has not compared the United States to Superman in his trade war with China.
Johnson says humanity needs a "champion" of the right to "buy and sell freely," but that's exactly will not happen if he follows through on his threats. Britain will not be buying and selling freely under Johnson. Britain will never take off those "Clark Kent spectacles."
Johnson says he would accept a deal similar to the one enjoyed by Canada which grants free access to the European market without directly aligning with European labor and environmental regulations and the like, but Canada isn't Britain. The volume of trade between Britain and mainland Europe is significantly larger than trade between Canada and Europe and allowing Britain to enjoy a similar access could be very anti-competitive to European economies that remain in the single market customs union.
I don't know how much of this is just tough talk from Johnson, and there's a long way to go between now and the deadline Johnson set for himself at the end of the year, but I do wonder if British parliament would approve of widespread tariffs on local, constituent businesses they represent.
The "Brexit" hasn't really hit home yet because Britain still has access to the European customs union during a transition period, but reality is going to come knocking next December.