It's impossible to work out a trade with the EU in 11 months Boris.

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readNov 26, 2019


Trust me on this Mr Prime Minister you will not sign a trade deal with the EU for years. They don't do easy trade deals it takes them years.

Let's take a look at one that should have been easy, one in fact that when it was signed The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong shocked the EU delegation by telling them that his country is ready to strike an identical trade deal with the United Kingdom, which would come into effect at the end of any Brexit transition period.

In other words, if the United Kingdom had not been in the EU and have been able to go out work out and sign our own trade deals we would have signed our own trade deal with Singapore years ago. Because as we all know every country in the EU gives up that sovereign right and the EU does it for you.

The EU’s latest example of a trade deal, with Singapore, took 12 years and won’t be ratified for at least two more years

Last week the EU’s trade deal with Singapore finally ‘came into force’

Negotiations first started with Singapore in 2007, as part of the ASEAN group of countries

These stalled and negotiations recommenced with Singapore in March 2010

As I reported on Saturday, this trade deal came ‘into force’ on Fri 22 Nov 2019

In fact, it still needs to be ratified by all the 28 EU parliaments involved, plus their second chambers.

However, let's take another look at Singapore and show how easy it is to strike trade deals if countrys are not held back from doing so by anyone else like the EU. Let's look at Singapore and Australia.

It took Singapore just 18 months to agree on a trade deal with Australia

Negotiations started in April 2001 and ended in October 2002

The full agreement was signed on 17 Feb 2003 and entered into force on 28 July 2003

When it entered into force it had already been ratified by the countries’ respective parliaments.

So, it took Singapore a total of just over two years to have a fully-ratified trade deal with Australia.

So far it has taken Singapore a total of 12 years to have a trade agreement with the EU, and this still needs to be ratified by the parliaments of all 28 EU countries — a process which normally takes years.

And what about Australia’s attempts to get a trade deal with the EU?

The EU did not even start to get serious about a trade deal with Australia until just before the EU’s Referendum in the UK.

Australia has the 13th largest economy in the World

It’s bigger than 24 out of the 27 countries in the post-Brexit EU

Australia bought AUS $79.1 billion (approx £42 billion pounds) of goods and services from the EU28 last year

The EU didn’t even agree to launch trade negotiations with Australia until 15 Nov 2015

It’s now over four years later, and a free trade agreement is still a long way off.

The UK’s EU Referendum rattled the EU at every level. One of the spin-off consequences was a sudden and mad scramble to get some trade deals done.

During the EU Referendum campaign, I highlighted the EU’s abject failure to perform in the area of one of its “exclusive competences” — that of international trade.

The EU Commission’s Trade Directorate went from being a sleepy Brussels backwater, headed up by a Commissioner with no previous trade experience, to a hive of activity — alas still headed up by the same Commissioner with no previous trade experience.

Nevertheless, there was finally some action, even if it was too little and too late.

Just prior to the Referendum the EU was desperate to agree with its trade deal with the USA. It failed. And that was when the Europhile US President Barack Obama was in office.

Then the EU started negotiating with the UK’s close Commonwealth partner, Australia.

The latest deal with Singapore, announced last week, shows just how long it takes to agree on a sensible trade deal with the EU. Singapore and Australia managed a trade deal between them in over 2 years — fully ratified. Singapore’s trade deal with the EU has taken 12 years so far, and will not be ratified by all EU27 parliaments for another two years.

So what is Boris Johnson saying?

We all applaud ambition and a dynamic and positive approach. This was sadly lacking under Theresa May’s premiership.

That said, there are interesting questions which are thrown up by the promises in the Conservative manifesto. At present these are not being addressed by the mainstream media.

If we all assume — based on all the experience of the EU tackling trade negotiations over many years rather than many months — that a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU will be simply impossible in 11 months, what happens then? I would imagine Mr Johnson hopes to get the EU to agree to the maintenance of the status quo under GATT XXIV, or the UK exits on WTO terms.

[ Sources: Conservative Party manifesto | EU Commission | Australian Government Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade | Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore ]



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.