Boris isn't bluffing — if we don’t get a trade deal like Canada’s then it’s sod EU

IT’S been a tough ten months for Boris Johnson.

Riding high on the back of a ­landslide election victory with a plan to get Brexit done, he must have thought he would cruise through EU talks.

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He would have been right to assume his new-found political strength would give him enough power to see off the EU negotiators and their machinations.

Surely they would know when they were beaten.

Yet the EU carefully set out to undermine first the PM’s chief ­negotiator Lord Frost and then Boris himself.

The EU has dragged its feet through spring and summer. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier must have thought he was still ­dealing with Theresa May’s surrender specialists, ­complete with home-made white flags.

But at last it must now be starting to sink in that Boris and his team are made of sterner stuff.

With just 74 days to go until the end of the transition period, the PM must continue to hold his nerve. They are bound to come scurrying back in the hope he will settle for anything as he gets closer to the wire.

He must hold his ground. I’m sure Boris won’t settle for anything that amounts to a sell-out now.

From the outset, he has been ­consistent that all he wanted was a Canada-style trade deal.

He wasn’t asking for any more. It’s a pretty standard free trade deal — it accepts the World Trade Organisation as the remedy for disputes and reduces ­tariffs in agri-products and goods to zero. It also has some arrangements for ­services, which aren’t any way subject to tariffs but are up against different domestic regulations.

Importantly, Canada retains full ­control of its fishing grounds and ­negotiates access with different ­countries.

You would think that it would be easy to do such a deal. After all, the EU has done one with Canada.

But the EU wants to retain control over the UK so that, once fully out, we don’t become a competitor.

The last thing it wants is a buccaneering Britain competing with the EU and its over-governed and regulated ­economies. That’s why it insisted on an agreement prior to the trade negotiations that handed over control of our laws in certain areas to the European Court of Justice.

The arrangements for Northern ­Ireland could also mean we will have to abide by its rules in other key areas, such as limiting our ability to aid our industry if we think it needs it.

Even though the EU offered a Canada deal originally, it has gone back on its word and said no. Its arrogance knows no bounds.

I understand the EU thought that when Boris said there was a cut-off date of October 15, by which time it would need to have agreed an outline deal, he was posturing.


‘DON’T CALL US, WE WON’T CALL YOU’

It didn’t believe he was serious. In fact, it still doesn’t. 

Sources in Brussels say the last EU summit was persuaded by French president Emmanuel Macron to play hardball and demand ­significant concessions.

This was particularly the case with control of our fishing waters.

That’s why the statement from the European Council actually had the cheek to blame the British negotiators for not having got a deal and demanded they make concessions.

I am told it still thinks the UK is bluffing. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

To emphasise that, I see that although Michel Barnier was getting ready to come to London to negotiate further demands by the EU, David Frost has told him not to bother.

I understand he has reminded Mr Barnier that Boris Johnson has said the UK was now going to make preparations for an Australian-style trading relationship with the EU and maximise our other trade deals with countries around the world. He’s told them: “Don’t call us, we won’t call you.”

The UK is in a very strong position. It has become clear that the EU is not so united. Macron’s arrogant position is now coming in for criticism from others such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It is clear that cracks are appearing in the facade of the EU.

Many of them know their economies are weak and, as the UK is their most profitable export market, they want a deal.

Boris was right when he said after the summit that Brussels had ­abandoned the ambition of a free trade deal.

This was not in accordance with our mutual legal obligation to ­negotiate in good faith.

The EU has clearly not done so and, as the agreement says, if either side fails to negotiate in good faith we can and should tear up the ­existing Withdrawal Agreement. 

What the EU is offering is a deal to benefit itself. The EU exports goods and agricultural products mostly and these would be tariff-free, which would be to the EU’s benefit.

But the UK services make up 80 per cent of our economy and these need the EU and the UK to agree to mutual recognition of ours and its standards.

The EU refuses to do so and that means any deal will be a one-way street favouring the EU. That, by any definition, is bad faith and it will be the guilty party.

Boris must continue to stand firm. There must be no sell-out of our fishing rights and there can be no deal with the EU as long as the Withdrawal Agreement stops us ­getting that Canada-style deal that Boris called for and which the EU once offered. 

Going back on its word constitutes bad faith by the EU and we must now resolve to walk away and make our own plans.

Better we hold our head up as a ­sovereign country deciding our own future than be subject to the EU’s laws.

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