Boris Johnson's Brexit Trade Plan Will Hit UK Economy, Experts Warn

Exclusive: Survey shows 88% of 100 leading academics believe a Canada-style trade deal with the EU will have a "negative" impact on Britain's economy.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan for a Canada-style trade relationship with the EU will have a negative impact on Britain’s economy, an overwhelming majority of experts have told a survey.

Some 88% of more than 100 academics expect the relationship negotiated by the prime minister, in light of the strategy he revealed last week, to have a negative economic impact.

Most of the academics (59%) from leading universities also believed it would be “substantially” negative, the Brexit policy panel survey for the UK In A Changing Europe think-tank showed.

Professor Anand Menon, director of UK In A Changing Europe, said: “Brexit poses a number of challenges.

“Not least, as this newest survey reveals all too clearly, an overwhelming majority of social scientists believe that the economic impact of Brexit will be negative.

“This will make the governments ambitious agenda for ‘levelling up’ the country all the more difficult to achieve.”

In February’s survey, taken after the PM outlined his Brexit strategy, a majority (67%) believed he would succeed in striking a deal covering trade in goods such as manufacturing and agriculture before the end of the year.

But they were pessimistic about the prospects for a quick deal on services which make up the vast bulk of the UK’s economy before the end of the transition period, with nearly three quarters (74%) believing agreement in this complex area was unlikely by 2021.

Despite this, nearly half (44%) of the experts thought Johnson would stick to his promise not to extend the transition beyond December 31.

More than half (53%) thought he would achieve his goal of negotiating a Canada-style trading relationship, although around a quarter thought the UK would end up with an EU-Switzerland type of arrangement, with sector-by-sector deals.

A slim majority (52%) of the panel also thought the UK would strike a trade deal with the US within the next five years.

Johnson outlined his government's negotiating stance during a key speech at the Old Naval College in Greenwich, London last Monday
Johnson outlined his government's negotiating stance during a key speech at the Old Naval College in Greenwich, London last Monday

On the contentious Brexit issues of fishing and financial services, the experts also predicted both the UK and the EU would be disappointed, at least in the short-term.

Less than half (47%) of the panel believed there would be a deal on the rights of EU fisherman to trawl UK waters by the end of the year, despite Brussels’ demands for access.

And more than half (54%) thought it was unlikely that the EU would grant permission for the kind of broad-based access the UK is seeking for its financial services through what is known as “equivalence”.

It came as Theresa May’s former deputy, David Lidington, admitted the previous government made mistakes in the first phase of the Brexit talks, which were marked by three years of rancour, chaos and division.

Lidington said ministers were slow to realise “how hard some of the political choices in the negotiations would be”.

“There should have been a different approach to the negotiations at the start, because I think it would have been possible then to come to the deal earlier,” he said.

“And possibly, you know, an attempt to reach out to the other parties early on, saying: ‘This is a national decision, we have had a vote in the referendum, now we need to move forward together.’”

Lidington also criticised May’s decision to create the new department for exiting the EU (DExEU), which was closed by Johnson on Brexit day, January 31.

“In my ideal world, I would not have invented DExEU as a department,” he said.

“I would have had a big unit, but I would have located it as, you know, an annex to the Cabinet Office and No.10, because the prime minister was going to be driving the negotiations,” Lidington told the Institute for Government as part of its Ministers Reflect series.


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