10:45 GMT21 September 2020
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    The United Kingdom and the European Union have until 15 October to agree on the terms of a free trade agreement after Brexit, otherwise both parties better abandon the talks and "move on", UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.

    Henry Bolton, analyst and leader of the Our Nation Party, believes that Johnson's latest announcement is a sensible ploy that is actually putting pressure on Brussels.

    Sputnik: Despite widespread condemnation in the mainstream media, are Boris Johnson and UK negotiators right to "rip up" Brexit withdrawal agreements?

    Henry Bolton: There are two things. One is that if the talks are going to break down with a no-deal, then it is a pragmatic and sensible thing to do for the British government to release itself from the constraints of that.

    The second thing is that given the late point in time, in terms of the negotiations and the self-imposed deadline, and that deadline, we should remind ourselves, is there so that all of the various pieces of an agreement can be put in place, if an agreement is reached. This move actually puts increasing pressure on the Brussels negotiating team, in other words, the European Union negotiating team. So, it is a sensible, almost last-ditch negotiating ploy, but it also positions the British government to be as flexible and adaptable as it needs to be to respond to a no-deal situation.

    Sputnik: After seven rounds of Brexit negotiations and four years of deliberations, is a no-deal the most likely outcome for the UK, and will it benefit Britain in the long term?

    Henry Bolton: A week is a long time in politics and we've still got about, I don't know, four weeks, five weeks or so still to go. So, anything can happen. A wise person wouldn't put money on there actually not being a deal - there may well be and it's moves such as this that actually increase the likelihood of a deal, in my view. But if there is no deal, then there is huge opportunity for a forward-leaning British government and nation to make its own way in the world. There is a massive caveat to that and that is whether or not the British government and the civil service are really forward-leaning enough, whether they are bold and courageous enough and whether they are capable of that sort of initiative.

    I have said from the very beginning of the Brexit debate, I have no fear about Brexit, about leaving the European Union. I really have none. My worry rests in my lack of confidence in the British government and the British institutions to fully exploit the opportunities that are there for the nation - or even to prepare for a no-deal situation.

    At the moment, we've got huge challenges on borders. You've got the Road Haulage Association, for example, correctly saying that the customs personnel on our borders are simply not sufficient in number or training to cope with the situation that will arise at the end of the transition period. They are absolutely correct to raise that concern. The British government has failed utterly to step up to the plate and plan and prepare fully and properly for a no-deal situation. That is my fear. It's not that there's a lack of opportunity, there's massive opportunity, it's whether or not the British government can step up to the plate and actually deliver on that opportunity.

    Sputnik: Following the actions of the British government and the likelihood of a no-deal looming ever closer, what areas/challenges does Britain need to prioritise and focus on between now and the exit in January?

    Henry Bolton: We have got to be able to ensure facilitated trade across our borders. The second issue is about immigration and our maritime borders. Obviously there have been these migrants coming across in small boats across the channel, increasing numbers - that will probably fade off somewhat when it comes to the winter and the worse weather, but then it will ramp up again next spring, undoubtedly, because the British government is actually doing all of the wrong things in terms of dealing with this. The second issue on our maritime borders is related to fishing. Now, fisheries are a small proportion of our GDP. They're highly emblematic and symbolic of Brexit and obviously are an issue in relation to the negotiations.

    It is absolutely vital that the British government puts in place a full national integrated border strategy, combining air, land and sea assets, ensuring that all agencies work together towards a common set of goals.

    At the moment, we've got 17 different agencies working on our maritime borders, and there is no overarching strategy. There's no coherence or coordination of the assets and the resources that those agencies have. They all have separate individual strategies and approaches and the only coordination is on an ad hoc, local, collegial level rather than structured. There are massive, massive failings that the British government is failing to recognise and address. That's the risk that's facing us.

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

    Tags:
    no deal, Boris Johnson, Brexit
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