“Liz Truss has scored another major victory today, signing a post-Brexit trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. She promises the deal will be a “major boost” to the existing £21.6 billion of trade done with the three countries … It doesn’t look like Liz will stop being the Tory grassroots’ sweetheart any time soon”. Hurrah for Brexit!
This supremely delusional tone was echoed by the Daily Brexit, still called the Express, as it announced “BRITAIN and Norway have agreed a bumper Brexit trade agreement after months of crunch negotiations, it has been reported”. The Daily Mail concluded “Crackers! Norway trade deal slices chunk off cheddar tariffs”. Hurrah again!
The Murdoch Sun, as one might expect from a paper where many of the hacks only talk about ordinary working Brits, rather than having to actually encounter them in real life, decided it was all about fish and chips. “Brits could enjoy cheaper fish and chips with £22 billion Brexit trade deal with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein … FISH suppers and prawn sandwiches could become cheaper”. Who talks about “fish suppers” nowadays?
No matter, “Trade Secretary Liz Truss today chalked up the deal as a big win for Global Britain - and planned to celebrate with haddock and chips for dinner”. Yeah, right.
But into each garden a little rain must fall, and Chez Truss it soon came pouring. Investigative journalist Jon Danzig put it directly: “The deal is actually not as good as the trade deal we had with the three countries when we were an EU member”. Former UK Government trade advisor David Henig had some detail to add to that.
“This UK-EEA free trade agreement provides better trading conditions than World Trade Organization terms, though with considerably more trade barriers when compared with the previous Single Market relationship …Overall this is quite a standard free trade agreement, with limited economic value”. And it got worse. Rather a lot worse.
Lewis Goodall of BBC Newsnight quoted Norwegian PM Erna Solberg: “The FTA is not as good as the EEA agreement. An FTA means more bureaucracy and higher costs both for businesses and citizens … and is less dynamic, compared to what we had [with the UK] through the EEA agreement. The deal does not solve all trade barriers. Some remain unsolved. We must therefore not forget that this is a result of the UK choosing to leave the internal market and the common rules”. To that, Goodall added his own conclusion.
“Her words are partly about Solberg wanting to protect Norway’s position in the EEA, something to which her party is committed and for which there are critics in Norwegian politics. But it’s a starkly different tone from that struck by British ministers”.
It’s almost as if the sunny uplands of Brexit never existed. I’ll just leave that one there.
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