In 2017, then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted Brexit would “crucially” enable the UK “to do new free trade deals with countries around the world” and that foreign countries were so keen to do this they were “already queuing up”.
At the same time, he stressed the UK wanted access to the EU single market with a “bold and ambitious free trade agreement that removes as many barriers as possible”.
On Thursday, Johnson, now a backbench MP, tweeted that George Eustice’s resignation letter as fisheries minister “shows that no-deal may be the best option for the UK”.
Many leading Brexiteers appear to have made the same political journey: from talking up the prospect of a “have our cake and eat it” deal with the EU to the acceptance that the UK cannot strike one at all.
So part of the Brexiteer dream has died, but the UK can still make new trade deals with other countries.
Chief among them, of course, is the United States, the world’s leading economy. Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s administration has now made clear that his determination to put “America First” counts more than any “special relationship”. READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland does not have to sink with Brexit ship
A document summarising the US’s negotiating objectives lays out just how much Trump will demand.
The US wants to be able to scrap or alter the deal if it objects to a UK trade deal with China. It also wants the UK to accept currency controls designed to stop Britain manipulating exchange rates to gain an “unfair” advantage.
And the UK will be asked to adopt a foreign policy that would “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel”.
If that wasn’t humbling enough, the US is also seeking the removal of “unwarranted barriers” to food and drink imports – code for allowing in America’s infamous chlorinated chicken and other dubious products. The NFU urged the Government not to allow food imports of “lower standards than those required of British farmers”.
The health sector is also targetted with Labour warning the NHS could become a “playpen for huge US corporate interests”.
It was always a nonsense that the UK could strike better trade deals with the rest of the world than the EU.
We may have taken back control of the process, but we are now in a much weaker negotiating position because our market is smaller.
No wonder Trump’s America is at the front of that queue. He smells money and the chance to make a killing.