The man who helped “give birth” to the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA) says Brexit is “shaping up to be a one-sided affair” and “t
he Brexiters who think they have the upper hand are wrong.”
In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Canadian trade expert Jason Langrish voiced his concerns over Britain is seemingly approaching Brexit talks, ahead of triggering Article 50 which starts the formal negotiation process.
Here are key excerpts in his piece (emphasis ours):
“This is shaping up to be a one-sided affair. Brexit is a paradox, an effort to return to the past and a vision for the future at the same time. After nearly 45 years as a fully fledged member of the EU the UK wants out. And it has two years to cut a deal with the EU.
“There is no mutually beneficial deal available between the UK and the EU in this time frame. Existing levels of trade and investment will not guarantee a positive outcome for the UK. The Brexiters who think they have the upper hand are wrong.
“Then there are the more mundane aspects of international trade negotiations that evidently are not getting a hearing in Whitehall. I write from experience, having helped give birth to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
“Ceta is a very good agreement between two willing and flexible partners that approached negotiations with a positive spirit, seeking to realise the full potential of the relationship. It will stand the test of time once implemented. However, I certainly did not think that the scoping, negotiation and the ratification of the treaty would take more than 10 years.
“The politicisation of the European process of ratification has been most surprising and, at times, disconcerting. [Sir Ivan] Rogers’s warning to Downing Street, outlining that the EU expects a full UK trade deal to take until the early to mid-2020s, seems a realistic timeframe. Undoing nearly 45 years of integration and shared law will not be a pleasant experience and represents a clear step backwards.”
The Brexiters who think they have the upper hand are wrong.
Langrish was referring to Sir Ivan Rogers who unexpectedly quit as the British ambassador to the European Union on January 3.
The resignation letter contained thinly veiled attacks on the way the government was so far handling the Brexit process, such as “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall.” It also makes clear that the government has not communicated to its top negotiators what the UK’s strategy will be in the Article 50 talks even though they are due to start in March.
Prior to his resignation, Rogers warned May’s government that it could take over a decade to finalise a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. He also warned the government that a proposed UK-EU trade deal could be rejected by the national parliaments of the other 27 states at the eleventh hour, as all EU members must approve a trade deal before it is finally signed off by Brussels.
Last year, the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA), which Langrish was party to, nearly collapsed after seven years of talks. It was vetoed by the Belgian region of Wallonia, which eventually agreed to support the deal but only after all other parties agreed to a series of significant revisions.
Trade and investment deals are a marathon, not a sprint.
Langrish highlighted in his opinion piece about why these agreements take so long and how fragile they can be (emphasis ours):
“The next generation of bilateral agreements, of which CETA is the template, is complex. They reflect the realities of modern commerce and go beyond trade, touching upon behind-the-border issues such as standards, regulation and opening government contracts to competitive bidding. This complexity means that the deals take years to negotiate and conclude. In our amped up media environment, there are special interests making noise at each step in the process, ensuring that trade and investment deals are a marathon, not a sprint.”
This month, a think tank backed by prominent Leave campaigner Michael Gove claimed that Britain will create nearly 400,000 jobs if the nation decides to abandon the Customs Union, following a “hard Brexit.”
According to analysis of European Commission figures by Change Britain, Britain would create 387,580 jobs in manufacturing and services, if it left the Customs Union and forged new trade deals with eight non-EU countries, such as Canada, India, and China.
However, this all hinges on what experts have already claimed would take at least a decade to complete. Coupled with Langrish’s opinion piece, it looks like highly unlikely that Britain is able to do these types of deals in a short time frame.