As you might expect, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has been on the phone to 10 Downing Street to congratulate his conservative counterpart Boris Johnson, and to assure him that Canberra wants quickly to conclude a trade deal with London. Morrison talked of a deal being agreed “within months or even weeks’’ of Britain’s EU exit, pledged by Johnson to occur on October 31, and told reporters “we will be one of the first cabs off the rank”.
Hold on a moment. It sounds as if Morrison has become infected with that same sunburst of hyper-optimism with which Johnson has spurred on his teetering Conservative parliamentary party since becoming prime minister on July 24. In three major speeches he has vowed that, no matter what, Britain will leave the EU with no-deal unless the other 27 EU countries surrender to his terms. A wide body of economic opinion, from the IMF to the Bank of England, the Office of Budget Responsibility, the Treasury, to the Confederation of British Industry repeatedly warn of the dire consequences of no-deal.
That event, given that the British parliament and the European Council of Ministers are now on vacation until September, looks increasingly likely. Johnson will find himself having to eat his wordy promises rather than the cake he likes to talk about.
It is likely to be many months beyond October before Britain unravels its Brexit problems. Even if Parliament fails to vote down a no-deal Brexit, and Britain does leave the EU on October 31, tariffs blocking Britain’s farm exports to Europe, especially beef, will make it hard for London to accept Canberra’s demand for open access for Australian beef to the UK. And that is just one sticking point. For a full analysis of prime minister Boris Johnson’s biggest ever purge of a British cabinet, and his plans to wake up the country he calls ‘a slumbering giant’, read Colin Chapman’s analysis in Australian Outlook, published by the Australian Institute of International Affairs.