Ministers prepare to shed more light on UK’s post-Brexit future

Boris Johnson poised to give speech to unite factions with liberal, optimistic view of Brexit

Boris Johnson will on Wednesday make the first of six speeches about Brexit by senior British ministers, as Theresa May prepares to outline her vision of Britain after it leaves the European Union. Mr Johnson's speech, titled "Road to Brexit – a united Kingdom", is being trailed as an attempt to unite former Remain and Leave voters behind a liberal, optimistic view of Brexit.

Two other leading Brexiteers in the cabinet, international trade secretary Liam Fox and Brexit secretary David Davis, will also make speeches over the next two weeks. David Lidington, Ms May's de facto deputy and a former Remainer, will speak about Brexit and devolution.

The prime minister will speak at the Munich security conference next Saturday, when she is expected to propose a new security partnership with the EU. Some British ministers hope to remain part of Europol and the European Arrest Warrant after Brexit, although the latter is anathema to hard Brexiteers because it involves the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Ms May is expected to make another speech about Brexit towards the end of this month, after she and her senior ministers spend a day outside London discussing Britain’s negotiating position on its future relationship with the EU.


Transition arrangement

Tensions between London and Brussels are already high following sharp public exchanges between Mr Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier over the terms of a transition arrangement. In the coming days, the EU will publish a draft legal text based on the joint report agreed by the two sides last December. This will include a clarification of the commitment made by Britain to regulatory alignment between North and South if no other way is found to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

A pro-Conservative think tank on Monday said Britain should put pressure on the EU by outlining plans to scrap all tariffs on imported goods if it leaves without a deal. Policy Exchange said such a move would benefit British consumers by lowering prices and would restore Britain to the forefront of trade liberalisation.

‘Moral leadership’

“Unilateral free trade would reduce the cost of living, boost productivity and demonstrate true moral leadership by helping developing countries access British customers better. Trade liberalisation is a global public good and, like other global public goods like international aid or fighting climate change, it needs some nations to take a leadership role; this is what Britain should be doing,” the think tank’s director of economics, Warwick Lightfoot, said.

“Despite its rhetoric the EU is a protectionist bloc, shielding its farmers and other producers from competition with high tariffs. This not only imposes costs on consumers but also stifles innovation and slows productivity growth. When Britain leaves the EU, we have the opportunity to set ourselves free from its protectionist approach to the benefit of British consumers and our economy.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times