The UK foreign secretary dazzled colleagues with his colorful criticism of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for the UK’s would-be relationship with the EU, however ultimately backed it at a meeting at Chequers on Friday.
Johnson noted that if May’s proposal was delivered, it would leave the UK as a “vassal state,” while the suggested customs plan, the Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA), could be “a serious inhibitor” to free trade with non-EU countries, according to the BBC. He claimed that defending the plans was like “polishing a turd.”
However, later in the meeting he backed the proposals at Chequers, with ministers signing up to the plan to create a free trade area for industrial and agricultural goods with the European bloc, based on a "common rule book." According to May’s statement, the ministers separately agreed to "a new business-friendly customs model with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world."
Eurosceptic Tories, Andrew Bridgen among others, promptly lambasted the plan and expressed fury at the failure of pro-Leave ministers, namely Boris Johnson, to defy it during the Cabinet summit at Chequers. They warned that the UK would have to follow EU laws and European Court of Justice rulings, which would render the country unable to pursue an effective international trade policy. For instance, Labour party head Jeremy Corbyn said there should be a “proper vote” on the government’s proposals in Parliament, accusing the government of not having coming up with “a white paper on its own negotiating stance two years since the referendum.”
May responded by telling the Sunday Times: "The only challenge that needs to be made now is to the European Union to get serious about this, to come round the table and discuss it with us." She said her plan was a "serious, workable proposal" and when people voted to leave the EU, "they wanted to take control of our money, our laws and our borders and that's exactly what we will do".
Before the proposal was unanimously approved, ministers had spent 12 hours in talks at the PM's country home on Friday in semi-confidence, as they had been asked to leave their mobile phones outside the room before the negotiations kicked off.
Post-Brexit trade has been a stumbling block in the ongoing negotiations both domestically, as well between the UK and the EU, since they have continuously failed to reach a trade agreement, which would meet the objectives of both sides. The issue of the border on Ireland is also high on the agenda in the EU-UK talks, as the UK’s potential withdrawal from the European Customs Unions might oblige the UK to strengthen its border with the Republic of Ireland.