As the UK Government adopts the worst techniques of the Trump administration, David Henig cuts through the PR propaganda meant to distract from other issues.

First published in January 2020.

Another day, another UK “ramps up pressure” in trade talks story.

Forget the empty threat stuff, there is a real story here. The UK is reversing course on tariff policy, and it is another step away from “buccaneering global Britain” Brexit.

The Times, 25 January 2020.

Recall the no-deal tariffswe were going to slash tariffs compared to the EU, in what I was told by another department insider was an HMT led ‘pure Minford’ approach. Any remaining tariffs had to be argued for.

A radical approach.

What I heard this week was that it was Canada’s decision not to roll over the existing CETA deal for the UK, because with the no-deal tariffs there was little extra benefit for them, which was the main factor in the change of plan.

Without tariff reduction what could we offer?



Some 98% of all tariffs on goods traded between Canada and the EU have become duty free. Most tariffs were removed when the agreement came into force a year ago. All will be removed within seven years.
// Source: BBC News

I have noted before that the Johnson Government appears to be taking an international approach of safety-first combined with buccaneering language.

I suspect this tariff reversal, if confirmed, won’t be the last in trade policy. Many expect the UK will back out of a full US trade deal.

The biggest problem the UK faces in trade policy is, we still don’t know what we want. A team of negotiators with no known strategy or desired outcomes.

Until we have this, as I have noted repeatedly (here from March 2019), the trade policy must be uncertain. More to follow in the coming weeks and months on what the UK’s trade policy should consider, and what the role of trade deals in this would be compared to other policies.

For today, the conclusion is that the failure in three and a half years to have a strategy is inexcusable.

Tweets posted on 25 January 2020 by @DavidHenigUK.

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 25 January 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/The White House/Shealah Craiughead. - Bilateral meeting between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. | 24 Sept 2019. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)