Boris Johnson wants 'super Canada plus' - but is time too tight?

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

Could Boris Johnson have an EU trade deal all sewn up by the end of next year?

British prime minister Boris Johnson has said he believes a free trade deal could be done between the UK and the European Union after Brexit, but some experts believe the deadline is simply too tight.

In a video posted on Twitter last weekend, Mr Johnson said he is keen for "a big free trade deal with our EU friends and partners" that is "not based on any kind of political alignment" but rather "on the model of a super Canada plus arrangement".

He was referring to the CETA arrangement between Canada and the EU, which came into effect in 2017 after around seven years of negotiations and is still not fully implemented.

Under this deal, most tariffs on goods are eliminated and although Canadian products still undergo border checks, customs procedures are accelerated.

Mr Johnson has had his eye on this kind of plan for Britain post-Brexit since last year, pointing out that he too wants zero tariffs and quotas on imports and exports between the two sides.

However, trade talks on such a deal cannot legally begin until the UK leaves the EU on January 31st 2020, which allows just 11 months for negotiations to take place.

Clearly, this is considerably less than the seven years Canada and the EU had to sort out their deal. Even the EU's official guidelines state that "reaching an agreement usually takes several years", or an average of 48 months.

What's more, each parliament involved would have to ratify any deal taking place, which adds further time to the process and further creeps up on the December 2020 deadline. As an example, Canada's deal was signed in October 2016 but took until September 2017 to be completely ratified.

A transition period is to run after Brexit that keeps some current conditions of trade between Britain and the EU the same and Mr Johnson insists he can do a deal during this phase.

"We can get a fantastic new free trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020. And we will not extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020. There's absolutely no need for that," he states in his video.

Many remain sceptical though, with outgoing editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber telling Sky News the claims are "fantasy".