Inside Westminster

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will give the PM a short-term boost – but now he has other problems to deal with

Coronavirus aside – by the next election, voters will be more interested in the state of the economy, their job prospects and cost of living, writes Andrew Grice

Friday 25 December 2020 07:35
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<p>Boris Johnson has been touting the success of his deal-making</p>

Boris Johnson has been touting the success of his deal-making

It was hardly surprising that Boris Johnson wrapped himself in the Union Flag as he began his campaign to sell the UK’s trade deal with the EU. Or that he replayed his greatest hit by recalling the Brexit referendum. “This deal expresses what the people of this country voted for in 2016,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

Some voters will buy the spin. The pro-Brexit newspapers, who are giving Johnson a hard time over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, will revert to type and trumpet his deal. But his “jumbo Canada-style free trade agreement” is more of a mouse. 

It is doubtful whether “the people” would have voted for such a hard Brexit if it had been spelt out in 2016; the expectation, encouraged by Vote Leave, was that the UK could leave the EU’s political institutions but still enjoy the economic benefits. Johnson and his fellow Leavers did not exactly rush to spell out the 4 per cent hit to GDP a Canada-style agreement would bring compared to continued EU membership, according to Treasury figures.

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