European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the United Kingdom could have a trade agreement with Brussels comparable to Australia’s amounts to no deal and noted that the bloc is "fine" with that. Mrs von der Leyen said she was surprised when she heard PM Johnson’s proposal about an "Australian-style" Brexit, because Brussels doesn’t have a trade agreement with Canberra.
"Australia, without any doubt, is a strong and a like-minded partner, but the European Union does not have a trade agreement with Australia. We are currently trading on WTO terms and if this is the British choice, well, we are fine with that, without any question", said Ursula von der Leyen.
PM Boris Johnson made the comment about an "Australia-style" Brexit last week in a speech where he dismissed allegations that Britain would conform to the European Union’s trade rules in order to gain greater access to the bloc’s market, a requirement set by Brussels. The Australian or Canadian scenarios that the PM spoke about earlier envisage both sides setting tariffs on exports and imports.
Johnson also rejected allegations that the country would leave with no deal if both sides fail to reach an agreement on future trade relations. London has to strike a trade pact with Brussels by the end of this year or it will trade with the European Union on WTO terms. UKIP party member John Whitby said that it would be exceptionally difficult for Britain to agree on a trade deal with the European Union.
"I think that will be exceptionally difficult because the whole point of the EU is to be protectionist and to be a political entity. For them to give the UK a free trade deal without political control, would inevitably lead to almost every other contributory country in the EU saying 'Why are we paying for this.' This would then give the EU all sorts of problems. My feeling is that we are quite likely, if Boris Johnson holds his nerve; to end up with a deal of some kind, but it will not be a free trade deal, I think that we are going to end up going to WTO terms, at least for a short period of time".
Following its official exit from the EU on 31 January, the UK is set to go through an 11-month transition period to negotiate a new trade agreement with the bloc. So far, however, the sides have been unable to reach a compromise. One of the stumbling blocks is Brussels’ requirement that the UK align with its trade rules.