6 times Boris Johnson said a post-Brexit trade deal would be easy

Conrad Duncan
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Boris Johnson gave the strongest indication yet this week that the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit after a series of last-ditch talks with European Union officials failed to find common ground on a number of key issues.

The Prime Minister on Friday described no deal as now “very, very likely” that negotiators would fail to strike a post-Brexit trade agreement. He has told ministers to prepare for no deal as the most likely outcome of the talks.

Conservatives have insisted that the promise of an “oven-ready” deal last year was referring to the divorce deal rather than the trade deal. But Johnson has repeatedly suggested over the years that a UK-EU trade deal would be easy to secure.

11 March 2016

In one of his first interventions in the 2016 EU referendum, Johnson appeared at a Vote Leave event to insist that Brexit would be a “win-win for all” and suggested that the UK could simply copy Canada’s trade arrangement with the EU.

He told a crowd: “I put it to you, all those who say that there would be barriers to trade with Europe if we were to do a Brexit, do you seriously believe that they would put up tariffs against UK produce of any kind, when they know how much they want to sell us their cake, their champagne, their cheese from France? It is totally and utterly absurd.”

23 March 2016

At a Treasury select committee meeting on the economic costs and benefits of EU membership, Johnson was questioned on how long it would take for the UK to agree a deal for leaving the bloc and a future trade agreement post-Brexit.

He replied: “Bear in mind we already have extensive trading relationships, we’ve been in the thing for 44 years. Our relationship with the EU is already very well-developed. It doesn’t seem to me to be very hard to do a free trade deal very rapidly indeed.”

11 July 2017

As Foreign Secretary, Johnson told MPs that the chances of the UK failing to reach a deal with the EU were “vanishingly unlikely” and said there was “no plan” for no deal because the government would simply get a deal.

Responding to Emily Thornberry, he said: “There is no plan for no deal, because we’re going to get a great deal and I would, just for the sake of example and illustration, I would remind the honourable lady that there was a time when Britain was not in what we then called the common market.

“It is manifestly in the interests of both sides of the Channel to get a great free trade deal and a new deep and special partnership between us and the European Union, and that is what we are going to achieve.”

5 December 2019

During the 2019 general election campaign, Johnson was asked by Sky News’ Beth Rigby if he could “absolutely promise” that he would be able to get a trade deal with the EU by the end of December 2020.

He replied: “Well, Beth, we already have a deal and we can come out on January 31st in a state of perfect equilibrium and grace with the rest of the EU because we have a zero tariff, zero quota position now.

“And I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will be able to make sure that the EU protects its own interests and has a deal with us that ensures that that continues for the future…

“It’s very much in [the EU’s] interest to do a trade deal with us and I have no doubt that they will. And if you say ‘can I absolutely guarantee that we will get a deal?’ I think I can.”

10 December 2019

Days later, Johnson was questioned again by ITV’s Gareth Owen about how easy it would be for the UK to secure a trade deal with the EU before the end of the Brexit transition period, in place until December 31st.

The Prime Minister said: “What I think you’re forgetting is that the EU has never done a deal with an existing member as it were… 100% of the issues that you need to address in a trade negotiation are already addressed.”

22 January 2020

As the withdrawal agreement was approved by parliament, Johnson promised an “all-singing, all-dancing” post-Brexit trade deal with the EU by December 31st.

On his ‘People’s PMQs’ online Q&A, the PM said: “Parliament has passed the withdrawal agreement bill, meaning we will leave the EU on 31 January and move forwards as one United Kingdom. At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it.

“It’s massively in our interests – in the interests for both sides of the Channel – to have a wonderful, zero-tariff, zero-quota, all-singing, all-dancing FTA. I’m absolutely confident that we can do that.”

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