I don’t know how many extensions there have been during the government’s protracted negotiations with the EU to achieve (or not) a trade deal. The talks started at the beginning of March 2020 and yesterday after it appeared that a ‘no deal’ was likely, a joint statement by the parties announced that there would be a further extension, “to go the extra mile” but with no cut-off date this time (although there is the real date of 31 December 2020 –but they could ‘stop the clock’ I suppose). Wind back to September when Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a deadline of 15 October for a free-trade deal with the European Union. If missed, both sides should, he said, “accept that and move on”.
In the mist of this current period where jingoism, national chauvinism and a return to a 19th Century mentality seem to be the main tools in Johnson’s negotiating kit with the EU, (all good for press headlines of course) I’ve looked back on just what Liam Fox MP for North Somerset, who served as Secretary of State for International Trade from 2016 to 2019 and Secretary of State for Defence from 2010 to 2011, said about a future trade deal with the EU, post Brexit.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday 20 July 2017, the International Trade Secretary (so he should know about these things) said: “The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history. We are already beginning with zero tariffs, and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence, as it is called. In other words, our rules and our laws are exactly the same.”
Incidentally during the same interview he was also asked about the future of Prime Minster Theresa May, to which he replied: “I think the prime minister is likely to be there for the rest of this parliament. I think she has the support of her colleagues in the House of Commons.
“I think she has a mandate to be the prime minister. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by speculation about leadership.
“We’ve got a job to do, a historic task and that’s what we should concentrate upon, and to be diverted into personality issues doesn’t either do the Conservative party, the government or the country any good.”
Just a couple of points to bear in mind when assessing Liam Fox’s ability in the field of political predictions. Nearly three and half years after his infamous prediction and with days to go before the transition period with the EU ends, the UK is still negotiating for the very same trade deal which according to Fox would be “one of the easiest in human history”. As for his ‘Theresa May’ prediction, she stumbled on as prime minister for a further two years resigning on 24 July 2019.
Mind you others made similar predictions. In April 2016 some two months before the EU referendum, Michael Gove MP, now the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, insisted the UK would “hold all the cards” if it voted to leave the EU. Nearly a year later, in March 2017, Ukip’s Brexit spokesperson, Gerard Batten said Brexit could be sorted “in an afternoon over a cup of coffee”
The rest as they say is history and don’t we know it!
Postscript: 10 days later…
…’a deal’ is done and Johnson says ‘Brexit is done’. Well er um… as with all his statements not quite, it’s only a limited trade agreement covering less than 25% of the UK’s trade with the EU. Nothing much about data sharing, and the services sector including finance, where the aim is to turn the City of London into a tax haven, a ‘Singapore on Thames’. All these matters are left for ‘further negotiations’ which are likely to drag on and on, but not attract too many headlines in the right wing populist press.
As Criag Murray says: “…London will become the high risk centre for the dodgy money and the fast buck, to an even greater extent than it is already” and “Johnson will now surf a jingoistic media wave and be hailed a great success”. (See https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/12/the-fake-political-and-media-class/
With one ‘pretend drama’ out of the way, now time for the great ‘levelling up show’. But unlike the great EU/UK trade deal show, this is only for the UK audience .