Laugh or cry? Either way, Boris Johnson’s attempts to negotiate Brexit aren’t going well

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson isn’t exactly making a great success of the role so far:

Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit has been ridiculed by European ministers after he told Italy it would have to offer tariff-free trade in order to sell its prosecco in the UK.

Carlo Calenda, an Italian economics minister, said it was insulting that Johnson had told him during a recent meeting that Italy would grant Britain access to the EU’s single market “because you don’t want to lose prosecco exports”.

“He basically said: ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market,’” he told Bloomberg. “I said: ‘No way.’ He said: ‘You’ll sell less prosecco.’ I said: ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’ Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”…

A second attack was delivered by the Dutch finance minister and Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who said Johnson’s aims of leaving the customs union at the same time as securing immigration controls and maintaining access to the single market were not achievable.

Dijsselbloem told the BBC’s Newsnight: “I think he’s offering to the British people options that are really not available. For example, to say we could be inside the internal market but be outside the customs union, this is impossible, it just doesn’t exist. The opposite does exist. We have a customs union with Turkey but Turkey is not part of the internal market.

“He’s saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable, so I think he’s not offering the British people a fair view of what is available and what can be achieved in these negotiations.” [The Guardian]

It is worth particular emphasising just how many different people and structures have to agree to any Brexit deal with Britain for it to go ahead (hello, Wallonia).

An acerbic op-ed column penned in a rush that tells the world how much better they would be if only everyone else was as wise as the author – which is in many ways Boris Johnson’s core skill – is a long way short of what is needed to get unanimous support across the European Union for a workable deal.

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