Richard North, 05/10/2020  

On the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Johnson was questioned about Saturday's conversation with von der Leyen.

He thinks there is a deal to be done, although he concedes that "there are some difficult issues that need to be fixed". But, he said, "the EU needs to understand that we're utterly serious about needing to control our own laws and our own regulations". It also needed "to understand that the repatriation of the UK's fisheries, which were lost in 1973, is very important".

When pressed by Marr, who remarked that he had been "characteristically bullish about a no deal, saying it will be absolutely fine", Johnson declared: "all we're asking our friends and partners to offer is terms that they've already offered Canada, which is you know a long way away from here".

He added: "We're very close to our European friends and partners, we've been members of the EU for 45 years. I see no reason why we shouldn't get those sorts of terms".

Marr then asked: "Are you in any way worried about the effects of no deal in the middle of a pandemic?", whence Johnson replied:
I don't want the Australian WTO type outcome particularly, but we [can] more than live with it. More than live with it. And this country you know, I think actually the people of this country have had enough. They've had this for a long, long time, being told that this or that was impossible or intolerable.
Then we got the money quote: "I think we can prosper mightily under those circumstances", Johnson said.

The man was right in one thing at least: "the people of this country have had enough", even if there is undoubtedly the rump of his fanbase which still believes that we can "prosper mightily" in a no-deal scenario.

That the man even thinks this is an option though is a testament to how little he understands of the situation we're in, assuming it's not bluster – you can never tell with Johnson.

But even "the terms they've already offered Canada" are hardly anything to write home about. But then, I doubt whether Johnson has ever studied CETA or has the first idea of how it would translate to British circumstances, even if it was possible to adapt it in time.

The point about CETA, of course, is that it is a bilateral agreement, at its most basic a free trade agreement, with most non-tariff barriers still in place. For instance, just to take one sector – fresh meat production – Canadian products still require export certification before export, and physical health checks at EU borders.

As such, although better than nothing, CETA would not resolve many of the problems confronting exporters once we leave the Single Market, not least because the additional checks and formalities will substantially slow down processing of goods – a major handicap for the roll-on, roll-off business.

The unreal world which Johnson inhabits, though, is illustrated by the recent discussion on the nature of the treaty being currently discussed. So far, we have heard talk of the draft running to between 650 to 1,000 pages.

CETA, on the other hand, is just two pages short of 1,600 hundred pages. Even if there was a willingness on the part of all parties to deliver something similar, in less than the month left for negotiations, there simply isn't enough time to conclude such an agreement.

Then, on the basis that the trade deal currently being considered is restricted to trade, it can be approved by the Council and European Parliament, and ratified by the UK parliament. But CETA is a mixed treaty. Something similar would also require ratification by all of the 27 EU Member States.

Given that CETA still hasn't been fully ratified, despite provisionally coming into effect in September 2017, one could see a Canada-style deal for the UK having to wait until it has gone through all the hoops.

At this late stage, therefore, to have a prime minister advocating something which in reality isn't on the cards – is just meaningless babble. It's noise, which has no practical effect, which makes no contribution to the negotiations.

On the other hand, the assertion that we can "prosper mightily" under a WTO arrangement, now styled as an "Australian type outcome", is issue-illiterate, beyond the limits of acceptability. In the first instance, the Australian relationship with the EU includes a mutual agreement on conformity assessment, which is a formal treaty. It cannot exist within the vacuum of a no-deal scenario.

This, in itself, tells you Johnson is babbling. He has no real idea what he wants and is just churning over a word salad, making noises because they sound good, without having the first understanding of what they mean.

Needless to say, I have written extensively on the impact of a no-deal scenario, and this is not something that any sane prime minister could ever contemplate. Once again, the only way one could claim that we would "prosper mightily" is by having absolutely no idea of what is involved.

Just the absence of a mutual agreement on conformity assessment would have a profound effect. We would see consignments of goods, ranging from medicines to motor vehicles, held up at the docks, while prolonged and expensive conformity checks were carried out before they were admitted.

Without a deal, meat consignments would be held up while consignments were subject to test for pesticide and veterinary medicines. Apart from the cost of testing, delays of anything up to ten days might be experienced, with demurrage charges being incurred while the results were awaited.

Essentially, the bulk of our trade in goods (as well as services) with Europe would simply disappear. Furthermore, the implications in terms of jobs and wealth have probably been understated, as many firms rely on export sales for their overall financial viability.

The theory, of course, is that "Global Britain" would make up for its loss of European trade, with trade deals made with other countries, but there is no evidence that these could compensate for European losses in the short- to medium-term.

Even if the long-term outcome might deliver prosperity. It would be a rash forecaster who could commit to a time-scale. Of its nature, we would be talking of an indeterminate period, with so many variables that no guarantees could be given.

Anyone with any understanding of the implications of a no-deal scenario, could only be offended by Johnson's vacuous babbling. His noises convey no more sense than the gibbering of a chimpanzee, insulting the intelligence of his listeners.

And yet, time after time, he gets way with it, Marr left it to the last five minutes of his interview to ask Johnson about the negotiations, than then allowed him to make these insane assertions without challenge.

From the first time Mrs May asserted that "no deal is better than a bad deal", to the present day, with the gibbering of this oaf, I have not seen the legacy media address in detail the practical consequences of a no-deal scenario.

For the most part, the public is being led blind and ill-informed into a disaster situation, with idiot politicians who have no idea of that they are doing at the helm. It will be too late once this becomes apparent through experience but, as a nation, it is to be our fate that we must experience it to learn.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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