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Boris Johnson has admitted that it’s “very, very likely” the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal at the end of the Brexit transition period.
He has failed to negotiate an agreement over the past year, in part owing to disagreements over industry, fisheries and enforcement.
But Johnson and his government were elected with the promise that they had an “oven-ready deal” and it was time to “get Brexit done”. In fact he, and other senior Tories, have repeatedly assured the UK that we won’t leave the EU without a deal.
As that looks more and more likely, here are some of those assurances.
1. The chances of no deal? “I think they’re absolutely zero.”
During a BBC radio interview in November 2019, Johnson gave his assurances that the UK would leave the EU with a trade deal. He was not talking about a withdrawal agreement, as some Tories have since tried to claim, but about trade specifically, as he went on to say:
“People said I couldn't get a deal with the EU in the three months that we had available and they said we couldn't reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and that Brussels would never agree, and all this sort of stuff, and look what we did.
"We got a fantastic deal, it's ready to go... it is supported by every single one of the 635 Conservative candidates standing at this election.”
2. “Can I absolutely guarantee that we’ll get a deal? I think I can.”
This was Johnson’s response to a question about the UK forging a trade deal with the EU at the John Smedley factor in Derbyshire in December 2019.
In the run up to the general election, Johnson tried to convince British businesses that they don’t need to fear the uncertainty of a no-deal Brexit: he’s now urging them to prepare for that outcome.
3. “The idea that Britain would be apocalyptically off the cliff edge if we left the EU is silly.”
In August 2019, Dominic Raab sparked a backlash by suggesting that a no-deal Brexit was always on the table in the run up to the Brexit vote.
It was pointed out to him that he in fact said that the idea we’d be “off a cliff edge” is “silly” and that the term “no deal” wasn’t even used in parliament in the run up to the referendum.
4. “The day after we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.”
Michael Gove assured people that Britain would be well positioned to negotiate a favourable future relationship with the EU while encouraging people to vote leave.
He was confronted with these comments earlier this year by Andrew Marr but insisted he was not embarrassed by them.
5. “There is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal.”
Johnson caused confusion in 2017 by telling the Commons that no-deal plans weren’t underway – even after David Davis told Andrew Marr that there was a “proper plan for a no-deal” Brexit in place.
6. “The votes are now there” to pass a Brexit deal through parliament.
In October last year, Jacob Rees-Mogg told LBC that parliament was ready to vote through a Brexit deal, despite the fact that an agreement with the EU had not yet been reached.
Post-election, Johnson was able to come to a withdrawal agreement, which he signed on 24 January, but he has failed to negotiate a trade deal.
7. “A new relationship [will be] rapidly forged based on free trade.”
In 2016, Johnson imagined what post-Brexit Britain would look like in article for The Telegraph.
“The markets were calm. The pound did not collapse. The British government immediately launched a highly effective and popular campaign across the Continent to explain that this was not a rejection of ‘Europe’, only of the supranational EU institutions; and a new relationship was rapidly forged based on free trade and with traditional British leadership on foreign policy, crime-fighting, intelligence-sharing and other intergovernmental cooperation."
By anyone’s standards, that prediction and his many assurances that the UK would not leave the EU without a deal, have not aged well.