17:34 GMT19 February 2020
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    The UK-Africa business summit got underway in London today, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson keen to stress the importance of brokering trade deals with the wider world, ahead of the beginning of the so-called Brexit transition period on 31 January.

    Political commentator Mandy Boylett gave her views on whether strengthened ties with Africa, the US and the Far East really compensate for potentially reduced access to the European market.

    Sputnik: Would striking trade new trade deals with countries outside Europe help offset any damage potentially done by a no-deal Brexit?

    Mandy Boylett: I think it’s great that we are really getting into negotiating free trade deals with the US and other countries already, I think they’ve already got what’s called their chapters, so they know all of the things that they want to arrange, and that’s going ahead straight away.

    As I understand it; we aren’t even sitting down to the talks with the EU until March, so I think that kind of puts the EU on the back foot a bit, it’s quite a good negotiating tactic, and also the more free trade deals that we’ve got, the better because it makes it easier for our markets to export.

    Sputnik: Do you think that the UK will be able to agree a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020?

    Mandy Boylett: I think Brussels wants us to extent the Brexit transition period, but Boris Johnson has said that he won’t, and he has a strong majority in parliament so I suspect that he actually won’t extend it past the end of the year.

    It will all be to do with brinkmanship, taking it right to the wire with the negotiations to get the best possible deal that we can get for the UK.

    The best possible scenario would be to have no tariffs on anything, but the EU will say that we’ve got to have alignment of our regulations if you want that, but Britain will say that they are net importers from the EU, so it will hurt them more if there is no tariff-free deal.

    These will be the arguments that are put forward, and I think it will be taken to the wire, but I hope that the UK can strike a good deal with the EU at the end of it.

    Sputnik: Could  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson go back on his promise to sever ties with Brussels by the end of the year if negotiations go awry, and further extend the so-called Brexit transition period?

    Mandy Boylett: The majority of small businesses in the UK don’t export to the EU anyway, and so if they are relieved from the regulatory alignment of a continent they don’t even export to; then that’s only got to be a good thing.

    For the larger industries, such as the car industry it could get a little bit more complicated, but this all has to be taken account of in the negotiations.

    For the fishing industry, we should be keeping hold of our fish, and I know that the EU have said that they still want to be able to access our waters, and I think that’s kind of a little bit of a bullying tactic so that it doesn’t look like the UK is getting away with too much.

    The EU won’t want other countries to leave the bloc, so they will want to make out that the UK is being punished, but in terms of GDP; fishing isn’t such a huge amount, although I still think that they are our waters, and that we should keep the fish.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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