Sajid Javid has said he has no doubt that the Conservatives, if returned to power, will agree and finalise “a very ambitious, deep and comprehensive” trade deal with the EU by the end of next year.
The language is reminiscent of the Theresa May era and appears to suggest the Conservatives have pivoted away from Boris Johnson’s promise weeks ago of a “super Canada-plus” deal and are now back to close alignment with the EU – something Eurosceptics are vehemently against.
The majority of commentators think this is highly unlikely, but the answer depends on the definition of a trade deal.
Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, is one who believes it is possible. “The single biggest underpriced thing in this whole debate about Brexit is that Johnson and the EU might actually get a trade deal done by 31 December 2020,” he said. “It’s not that I am pushing this as a likelihood, I just think it’s possible and it could catch people off-guard.”
He said Johnson’s target was clear and simple: to extricate the UK from the single market and customs union, without much regard for the barriers to trade it would create. The EU could move quickly to get such a deal done.
However, others think Johnson, if he wins a majority, will pivot to a deal that aligns the UK with the EU far more closely than he has said to date.
“I think Johnson will come under enormous pressure to extend the transition period and I think he will,” said one well-connected former senior civil servant. “The worry for him without a transition extension is to risk getting a really bad deal after having ‘got Brexit done’.” Read more