Blackfriar: The UK is in danger of thinking that at least Brexit is now “done”

Many voters believed Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he said a vote for him would get Brexit done
Many voters believed Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he said a vote for him would get Brexit done
0
Have your say

While most eyes are on the simmering tensions in Iran and Iraq and just what President Donald Trump will do next, others are viewing the Australian bush fires with increasing horror.

Back home, Parliament will reconvene today with an update expected on Iran.

As the situation escalates following the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran has vowed vengeance for his death in an unexpected US drone strike on Friday.

The update should give us an inkling into whether the UK will continue to stand firm with Germany and France in urging caution or whether we will join America’s bellicose stance with a view to a US/UK trade deal further down the line.

The one issue that few people are thinking about is that we will leave the EU in just 24 days time, ending membership that has lasted more than four decades. Many voters believed Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he said a vote for him would “get Brexit done”, yet we are just about to start a tense 11 month negotiation in an attempt to come up with a new trading arrangement.

Unfortunately, this will come as a surprise to some voters.

In a focus group last October, researchers were gobsmacked that so many people believed that come January 31, a new Brexit deal would be done and dusted and we could go back to life as it was before June 2016. No more Brexiters versus Remainers. The country could heal.

When told that this was just the beginning and that Brexit will involve years of negotiations, researchers said the response from the focus group was a “horrified silence”.

Mr Johnson has expressed a desire for a UK-EU relationship modelled on Canada’s deal with the EU.

However, this is not something that can be decided in 11 months.

Canada and the EU signed their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in 2016, a whole eight years after they started negotiations.

Brooks Macdonald, a UK investment manager with £13.2bn in funds under management, said Brexit is “still far from plain sailing”.

The investment manager said: “The Withdrawal Agreement was arguably supposed to be the easy part. The hard-yards will start with the beginning of the transition period as the UK and EU begin discussions around the nature of their future trading relationship.”

It added that by hard-wiring no extension beyond December 31 for talks with the EU, Mr Johnson is only leaving 11 months to negotiate a new trading relationship with the EU.

“The UK Government continues to assert that a comprehensive trade deal with the EU can be agreed by that time, but we are sceptical,” the investment manager said.

Economists believe that a UK-EU trade deal covering a far bigger trade deal will be equally, if not more, complicated.

If the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement, the UK will revert to World Trade Organisation terms with the EU - a situation that only the Brexit Party and a few hard core ERG members think is a good idea.

As for the argument that we can easily do a deal because we are already aligned with the EU, this ignores the fact that Mr Johnson has said we are leaving the single market and the customs union, which will rip up that equivalence.

Whilst the world rightly focuses on the escalating situation between Iran and President Trump, the UK is in danger of thinking that at least Brexit is now “done”.

It isn’t and the ramifications for the UK could be extremely serious.