- Boris Johnson pledged that that frictionless trade with Europe would continue after Brexit.
- But Michael Gove, the de facto deputy prime minister, has now admitted for the first time that there will be multiple border checks for goods passing between the EU and UK
- Industry leaders told Business Insider this week that the prospective shape of Johnson’s “Australia-style” trade deal risked severe damage to firms across the country which rely on cross-border trade and supply chains.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Boris Johnson campaigned for Britain to leave the EU he promised voters that frictionless trade with Europe would continue after Brexit.
Now Britain has left the EU, however, a senior member of his government has admitted for the first time that new border checks will be “inevitable.”
Speaking to businesses on Monday, Michael Gove, the de facto deputy prime minister tipped to lead trade negotiations with the EU, said: “You have to accept we will need some friction. We will minimise it but it is an inevitability of our departure.”
“I don’t underestimate the fact that this is a significant change, but we have time now to make that change,” he told delegates for businesses who trade with Europe at a Cabinet Office meeting, according to a Guardian report.
The government has confirmed those new changes will include checks on food and goods of animal origin, as well as customs declarations on imports and exports at the border.
His comments echo those of Boris Johnson, who has said he will pursue a deal “like Australia’s” with the EU if Brussels does not agree to his demands by the end of 2020. Australia does not have a free trade deal with the EU, which prompted the EU’s trade commissioner Phil Hogan to warn that Johnson’s suggestion was “code for no deal.”
Multiple industry leaders told Business Insider this week that the prospective shape of Johnson’s “Australia” trade deal risked severe damage to firms across the country which rely on cross-border trade and supply chains.
The prime minister’s trade plans are radically different to those outlined by his predecessor, Theresa May, who pushed for frictionless trade with Europe.
The promise was made despite pressure from Conservative colleagues not to pursue a deal which would involve following EU rules.
But it has appeared likely for some time that the current government would pursue a much looser trade deal with the EU.
That is because Boris Johnson has calculated that Brexit is ultimately a political decision, not an economic one.
That means it considers an economic cost — even a significant one — a worthwhile price to claim a trade policy which is fully independent of the EU, and to fulfil the Brexit campaign’s mantra of “taking back control.”
Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, repeated his warning last week that Britain would have to stay aligned to a whole set of EU rules if it wanted a trade deal with Brussels. He also said the EU’s European Court of Justice should have oversight for any trade disputes between both powers.
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Neither of those pills are ones that Johnson’s administration is willing or likely to swallow.
Even if the EU grants some concessions during negotiations, the EU’s final offer will still be a deal which involves the UK closely following EU rules and regulations in many areas.
Johnson’s administration was elected on a mandate of “getting Brexit done” and reclaiming British sovereignty from Brussels.
The prime minister believes that failing to do that would be too high a political price to pay — and that is why he has calculated that the economic cost of trade barriers is worthwhile and necessary.
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