Mr Johnson’s power base has been significantly extended after his hefty general election victory last month, and his acquisition of an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons will not have gone unnoticed in Brussels. Now he is set to flex his muscles by floating the possibility of taxes on some types of French cheese and German cars of 30 percent and 10 percent accordingly – a move which would be certain to alarm Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Johnson discussed the move with cabinet meetings this week as a strategy for focusing minds in Brussels with respect to ongoing trade negotiations, The Times reported.
The UK is pushing for a deal which is free from tariffs and quotas, without any requirement to comply with Brussels’ rules.
EU leaders are nervous about the impact Brexit will have on the world’s largest single market, especially give the EU exports £94billion more products to Britain than go the other way.
Ministers believe EU leaders such as Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron will therefore pile the pressure on EU negotiators to wrap a deal up in order to protect their own economies from the fallout which will inevitably result from the tit-for-tat imposition of tariffs.
Third countries – those which are not members of the EU – will likewise have a strong incentive to negotiate separate trade deals with the UK over the course of the next few months, given any agreements which are currently in place will automatically lapse at the end of the year, when the transition period comes to an end.
At the meeting of the Brexit committee, ministers prioritised securing deals with Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, with other agreements expected to stay longer.
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Mr Johnson is expected to lay out the negotiating plan in the first week of February.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is speaking at Chatham House in London today, said yesterday the US wants to conclude a trade deal with Britain this year.
Speaking to Channel 4 News yesterday, Sam Lowe, from the Centre for European Reform, suggested it the US and UK would come together to strike the first phase of a deal within weeks – possible when Boris Johnson goes to the US in March.
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Mr Lowe said: “The US wants to sign a comprehensive trade agreement but that requires the UK to diverge from EU standards and regulations, which means we cannot remain aligned with the EU on things such as food standards.
“I predict that there will be a big launch event to start the US-UK trade talks.
“We will then find something small, related to trade, to negotiate with Trump quickly. A limited, defined agreement.
“We could support maybe scrapping the digital services tax in exchange for the US excluding us from the Boeing Airbus retaliation.”
“It could be as slim and as soon as that. Ready for the November elections for Trump and it doesn’t need Congress approval.
“And Boris can say we have done the first bit of a trade agreement.”
Mr Lowe said the US could “bully” the EU by likewise using the deal with the UK “as leverage” in trade deal talks with Brussels.
Mr Johnson yesterday signed off the Brexit deal for the UK to leave the EU on January 31.
He tweeted: “Today I have signed the Withdrawal Agreement for the UK to leave the EU on January 31st, honouring the democratic mandate of the British people.
“This signature heralds a new chapter in our nation’s history.”
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