Boris Johnson's 'amateurism' risks the 'biggest crisis of Brexit' yet, says the UK's former chief EU diplomat
- Boris Johnson's "get Brexit done" approach will lead to the "biggest crisis of Brexit to date" in 2020, according to former chief civil servant Sir Ivan Rogers.
- Rogers, the UK's former ambassador to the EU, said Johnson's refusal to extend the transition period means there won't be enough time to negotiate a new free trade deal.
- He said the prime minister's approach was "diplomatic amateurism dressed up domestically as boldness and decisiveness."
- Johnson's refusal to extend the transition period means negotiators will have less than a year to secure a brand new trade deal and get it through numerous parliaments.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to "get Brexit done" by the end of 2020 risks creating "the biggest crisis of Brexit to date," the United Kingdom's former ambassador to the European Union has warned.
Johnson has insisted that he will not extend the Brexit transition period beyond its current end date of December 2020, meaning UK and EU negotiators will have less than 12 months to secure a brand new free trade deal.
The transition period is designed to give businesses and people time to prepare for life outside of the EU. During that time, the UK will continue to follow EU trading rules.
Failure to secure a deal will mean that Britain will drop out onto costly World Trade Organisation Rules at the end of the transition period, which the government's own analysis suggests would cause significant damage to the economy.
Rogers, who resigned as the UK's most senior representative to the EU in 2017, said Johnson's "get Brexit done" approach meant a fresh crisis in 2020 was "virtually inevitable," as there won't be enough time to negotiate a new trade deal.
"It all points to a repetition of exactly the syndrome we have suffered for the last three [years]," Rogers said in a lecture at Glasgow University on Monday evening.
"And a repetition of myopia on which ultimately lands us with a poor and deteriorating relationship on multiple things that really matter, economically and strategically."
He described Johnson's plan as "diplomatic amateurism dressed up domestically as boldness and decisiveness."
Rogers said the prime minister's insistence that he will not extend the transition period despite the risk of severe economic consequences would leave him boxed in when trade talks with the EU get underway.
"In practice, this prime minister is, for all his talk of getting Brexit done, now basically replicating the strategy errors of 2016 and 2017, which brought his predecessor [Theresa May] down," Rogers said.
The former civil servant said the prime minister will likely make "a lot of concessions" in trade talks because a short timetable will give Brussels even more leverage in negotiations.
He said: "Because we are under time pressure and known to be desperate to 'escape vassalage' by the end of 202... the EU side just sees a huge open goal opportunity and repeats its playbook from the Article 50 process."
If the UK leaves the EU on January 31, it'll have just eleven months to negotiate a new trade deal.
However, both sides will also need to ratify the agreement. On the EU side, this means getting it through the European Council, European Parliament, and national and regional parliaments across the EU27 member states.
The EU's negotiations with both the Ukraine and South Korea each took nearly a decade. Its recent negotiation with Canada took nearly eight years, and was briefly held up by a regional parliament in Wallonia, Belgium.
Rogers has been a vocal critic of the UK government's handling of Brexit since quitting his position.
Earlier this year, he told Business Insider that there might eventually be a public inquiry into how politicians handled Britain's exit from the EU.
He also rubbished talk of a "clean break" Brexit, and said the UK would be in negotiations for years.
"We are going to be negotiating on everything from aviation to farming for evermore with our biggest neighbour. We cannot live in glorious isolation," he said at a talk earlier this year.
"Talk to the Swiss and to the Norwegians - they live in a permanent state of negotiation with the EU."
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