EU has upper hand in post-Brexit trade: Lamy
Brussels, Belgium - The former head of the World Trade Organization expects Britain to struggle for years to redefine its ties with Europe - and says Brits won’t swallow US products like chlorinated chicken.
Pascal Lamy, who has been an EU trade commissioner too, said London and Brussels may yet come to a bare bones trade deal this year to avoid a breakdown in ties. But further negotiations will continue for many years after that, and the smaller British economy will be at a disadvantage compared to the much bigger and richer European Union.
If 2020 and the post-Brexit transition period come to an end without a deal between London and Brussels, cross-Channel trade will be disrupted by border checks and tariffs.
“The EU and the United Kingdom would fall under WTO rules, which isn’t hell but is far from today’s heaven. It would hurt, which would be stupid,” Lamy told AFP in Brussels.
“In my opinion, they’ll find a way - that’s the diplomat’s art.”
As things stand, the two camps seem far apart as, in Lamy’s phrase, Prime Minister
Boris Johnson and EU negotiator Michel Barnier put on their ‘war paint’ ahead of intense negotiations. Johnson insists he will give no ground on reasserting British sovereignty over its fishing waters, ending free movement of citizens and escaping from EU laws and regulations.
But Barnier’s negotiating mandate will be equally clear that Britain will not enjoy privileged access to the EU market if it does not accept tough conditions to ensure a level playing field.
Lamy thinks that Johnson, whom he has known since the British PM’s former life as a Brussels-based journalist covering EU politics, will give ground when economic reality sets in.