Brexit: Ominous signs as Boris Johnson and EU begin shadow boxing – leader comment

Boris Johnson may discover the UK is a lightweight up against a heavyweight in post-Brexit trade talks with the EU.

Boris Johnson during a visit to Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy at Wythenshawe during the general election campaign (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

So, Bruiser Boris is ready to go just as soon as Big Ben controversially fails to go ‘dong’ to mark Brexit hour of 11pm on 31 January. Well, she will be after a good night’s sleep and a spot of breakfast, of course.

However while the UK said eagerly that it was willing to start negotiating a trade deal with the European Union on 1 February, the EU struck an insouciant pose.

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They would start the talks as soon as possible but “certainly not before the end of February, beginning of March”. It would “take some time” for the 27 other nations of the EU to agree a joint position.

It’s hard to avoid the idea that both sides are already shadow boxing, trying to size each other up ahead of a trial of diplomatic strength.

In the blue corner, Boris Johnson is probably still full of pep, enthusiastically showing off his “Get Brexit done” boxing gloves.

In the Brussels corner, there is just an empty stool, but it is enormous.

Johnson’s spirits may be high after he apparently pulled off a David-style victory over the Goliath EU, by persuading them to accept his Brexit deal, but the contest over trade is shaping up to be a mismatch.

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