14:40 GMT05 March 2021
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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he is confident that the UK will be able to reach a trade deal with the EU in the coming months. The UK is set to leave the bloc on the 31st of January, but will then enter into a so-called transition period, which will expire at the end of 2020.

    During this time Britain will remain within the EU’s institutions and abide by its rules and regulations, whilst teams from Brussels and Westminster attempt to negotiate an arrangement that would limit any potential economic damage caused by the UK leaving the single market.

    But is Johnson right to be so optimistic?

    Alistair Jones, Associate Professor and University Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics, at De Montfort University Leicester, shares his views on the matter.

    Sputnik: Will the UK be able to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU?

    Alistair Jones: My suspicion is that we are going to head towards a no-deal Brexit. First of all, the EU are not going to have their negotiating position organised until the end of March, because they take a whole system of getting the individual opinions of the member states altogether, aggregate it, and then work out what the red lines are going to be.

    That leaves us, therefore, with nine months to get the negotiations done, and we’ve already got legislation in place in the UK, that will not allow for another extension of the Brexit transition period, it may be that we can get around that; by the EU asking us for an extension, and us saying yes, but whether Boris Johnson would go with that or not, I don’t know.

    We are cramming it all into nine months, and what the EU wants to do is have a big picture deal, covering as much of what’s possible, whereas Boris Johnson wants a piecemeal arrangement, with little bits of detail here, there and everywhere.

    The problem from the EU's perspective is that those might overlap and contradict, and they can’t have that, so we’ve got two sides wanting different things out of the negotiations, and it’s not going to work.

    Unless somebody is willing to make concessions; it’s going to be very difficult to see a deal being done by the end of this calendar year.

    Sputnik: Will Boris Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei to implement a part of the UK’s 5G network damage trading relations with the US?

    Alistair Jones: The situation with Huawei is an interesting one: on the one hand, we want them involved because Huawei has actually got some of the best technology available, and we want access to that, but the security concerns are the counterbalance.

    From the American perception, they worry more about security concerns. If we have a deal with Huawei then the Americans are going to be rather aggrieved at us, and it will reduce what they will want to do with us with regards to any trade deals, in particular sectors that could be related to technology.

    If there is anything whatsoever that links to something, that might be linked to something to do with Huawei; then the US is going to be saying no, they are not having that, so we’ll end up with a much-reduced capacity for trade deals with the Americans.

    If we leave without a deal; that leaves us with a slightly bigger hole than we are going to have if we leave without a deal, and the Huawei issue gets parked to one side, so yes it’s going to make things slightly worse, but as to the extent of the damage, we won’t know until the end of December unfortunately, so sadly this all becomes a bit of speculation.

    The EU flag and a smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration taken January 29, 2020.
    © REUTERS / Dado Ruvic/Illustration
    The EU flag and a smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration taken January 29, 2020.

    Sputnik: Could the UK re-join the EU in the future, should Brexit go awry?

    Alistair Jones: If we want to re-join the bloc; every single EU member state must vote unanimously for that to happen, that’s the starting point, and the way the negotiations have gone, and the way that Britain has dragged their feet and the interactions that Theresa May and David Cameron, and more recently Boris Johnson has had, I don’t see all the member states being happy to have us come back in.

    If they do vote yes we must accept the full legislation that’s previously been passed within the bloc, and this would mean that we would have to sign up in full to the free movement of goods, services and people, basically the Schengen Agreement, and we’d also have to be running our economy to join the Eurozone at the earliest opportunity, that will again be a requirement, we won’t get an opt-out of those.

    All the opt-outs that the UK previously had will be lost automatically if we wanted to re-join the EU, so that being the case; a lot of Brexiteers, or even those that are lukewarm remainers, would look at that and be going, “actually we don’t want that”.

    Whether or not we want to re-join, would the government then put it to a national referendum to see if we should re-join if Brexit turns out to be bad? I don’t know, but the fact that Nigel Farage has already raised this question, I think highlights that he is aware of just how potentially bad Brexit could be, and he is trying to make sure that he doesn’t get any of the blame attached to him, that is my suspicion on Nigel Farage.

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

    US, 5G network, Huawei, United Kingdom
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