UK set to emulate Mauritania?
At a press conference at the conclusion of the Nato 70th anniversary leaders’ meeting, Boris Johnson was asked whether he had made it clear to Donald Trump that the NHS would definitely not be on the table during UK/US trade talks, and whether the UK might actually crash out of the EU at the end of 2020 without an agreed trade deal.
The Withdrawal deal agreed with the EU by Johnson, a rehash of Theresa May’s deal, has yet to become law, so if the Tories win an overall majority in next week’s general election pushing it through will be a priority on return to Westminster, as will negotiating terms with the EU for a trade deal before the end of 2020. The December deadline can be extended, but the Tory manifesto makes clear a further delay will not be requested. But we have heard that before.
Although Sabine Weyland, the senior EU negotiator, has indicated a “bare bones” free trade deal could be negotiated in eleven months, trade experts, basing their views on the length of previous trade deal negotiations, believe it would take much longer. If this were the case, would Johnson and his team ask for an extension (this has to be requested by July 2020) or be happy to crash out and trade under WTO rules?
If the crashing out route is taken, then the UK would be only the second country to trade solely under WTO rules, the other country being the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, an African country wiith approximately 90% of its land area within the Sahara. Mauritania’s GDP is $4,714million (0.2% of the UK’s), 50% of its exports consist of Iron Ore, and between 1% and 17% of the population still live in slavery.
Given Johnson’s track record of bluff and bluster to evade answering questions, it’s hardly surprising that the question asked at the concluding press conference of the NATO meeting went unanswered by Johnson who rubbished the question as scraping the barrel, and promptly brought the press conference to a close.
A report this evening in the Independent indicates that on the Friday after the general election EU leaders will set out their plans for further Brexit talks, led again by Michel Barnier as chief negotiator. “Get Brexit Done” may be the Tory electioneering slogan, conning voters into believing the passage of the Withdrawal Bill will see an end to Brexit wrangling, whereas in reality EU leaders are girding their loins for yet another round of negotiations very like those of the last three years.
Brexit is not about to depart the UK political scene anytime soon.
As a slightly off-beat addendum to this, a number of Tweets today have pointed out that the Tory slogan of “Get Brexit Done” is an anagram of “Being Extorted”. Makes you think.