Ex-US economic chief slams Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade plan

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Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has predicted that the UK will get punished in trade negotiations after Brexit.


Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Summers – who was US economic chief under Bill Clinton – said that Britain was putting itself in the worst possible negotiating position, by pledging to leave the EU no matter what.

“Britain has no leverage. Britain is desperate. Britain has nothing else. It needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”

“The last thing you do is quit a job before you look for your new one,” he added.

“In the same way, establishing absolutely as a matter of sacred principle that you’re leaving Europe has to be the worst way to give you leverage with any new potential partners.”

This comes only a week after a former Conservative leader in Canada said that her country should wait until Britain leaves the EU to negotiate a trade agreement, because they’ll “get a better deal”.

Summers was responding to 45 predominantly Republican senators who recently signed a letter to Boris Johnson pledging to back a trade agreement with Britain whether or not the UK leaves the EU with a deal. 

Pouring cold water on their claims, Summers said that he seriously doubts whether a trade deal would be signed at all – due to the complications we outlined a couple of months ago.

It’s reassuring that senior figures in other countries agree with us that Boris Johnson is on another planet.

2 responses to “Ex-US economic chief slams Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade plan

  1. I have the greatest respect for MrSummers and I am willing to hear anything he has to say but Article 50 says quite clearly if the seceding country leaves without agreement then they shall continue trading with the EUSSR on WTO terms,what is the problem with that. What are the complications you mentioned a ‘couple of months ago’?

  2. Trade on WTO terms is not the answer as it is problematic in a number of areas. One example (only one of many): tariffs on lamb exports under WTO are 40%. That would mean that farmers would simply destroy their lamb stock and most likely go out of business. The long term answer is to strike trade deals on more favourable terms, such as with the US. However, the UK would indeed be desperate and would want to strike a trade deal quickly; the US would act from its position of power and strike deals that favour its economy far more than that of the UK. For example they want access to the NHS and could demand that as a prerequisite. These are basic facts.

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