Is Boris the best person to negotiate Brexit? Probably not…

Following on from the leaked Brexit memo, we’re still none the wiser as to Theresa May’s thinking for her Brexit plan and negotiating strategy. However, in her absence, we have Boris Johnson…

In an interview with a Czech newspaper, the foreign secretary said that the UK would probably be leaving the customs union.

We probably we will need to leave the customs union, but this is a question which will be dealt with in the negotiations.”

Boris Johnson

This, amazingly, is as much as we have got on any thinking behind the government’s Brexit plan and it was given to a Czech newspaper.

He also added that the right of freedom of movement being a founding principle of the EU was a ‘total myth’. Johnson went on to say that the UK wanted to keep access to the single market but to ‘take back control of our borders’.

From his comments, we can gather that the government (or just Boris) would like to stay in the single market, leave the customs union and have restrictions on the freedom of movement of people. Is this a possibility? Probably not.

In response to his comments, Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that what Johnson was offering was ‘intellectually impossible’ and ‘politically unavailable’

I think he’s offering to the British people options that are really not available. For example, to say we could be inside the internal market but be outside the customs union, this is impossible, it just doesn’t exist. The opposite does exist. We have a customs union with Turkey but Turkey is not part of the internal market.”

Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Although ruling out any exceptions for the UK on freedom of movement of people, Angela Merkel recently suggested that there could be room for manoeuvre within its framework.

Negotiation by prosecco



Perhaps another insight into the government’s negotiating strategy comes from remarks made by Carlo Calenda, Italy’s minister for economic development. On Tuesday, Calenda told Bloomberg Television that he was insulted by Boris Johnson’s attempts at negotiation… Here’s how Calenda reports the conversation:

“He basically said, ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market,’”. “I said, ‘no way.’ He said, ‘you’ll sell less prosecco.’ I said, ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’ Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”

If the government want to show that they are not in disarray over Brexit as the memo claims, this is probably not the best way to go about things.

What’s the difference between the single market, free trade and customs union?

The BBC has a useful (and easy-to-read) explainer about the differences between the single market, free trade and customs union.

Image: Boris Johnson
© Frederic Legrand – COMEO /

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