Friday, December 11, 2020

Brexit - a Canada-style deal, Australia-style, no deal at all?

As Brexit - yes Brexit! that thing is still going on! - grinds to a tired and unimpressive conclusion, and the 31st December final deadline (final! final!) looms, Brexiter-in-chief Boris Johnson's messaging has gradually changed. No longer is there talk of an all-encompassing deal with Europe, no talk of a Switzerland-style free trade deal with the EU, or a Norway-style deal. Gone even is the more limited (but technically "comprehensive") Canada-style deal. Now, he is talking up an Australia-style deal.

Which means what, exactly? Well, very little, really. Australia doesn't have a free trade deal with the the EU (it has been in negotiations for a couple of years now to establish one), and basically trades with it under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, subject to tariffs the same as everyone else. Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says, "Be careful what you wish for. Australia's relationship with the EU is not one, from a trade point of view, that Britain would want".

I guess an "Australia-style deal" just sounds better than "no deal". But, make no mistake, that's what it is.

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