The negotiations have been going on more than four years, with countless rows and ongoing recriminations. Yet as Boris Johnson heads to Brussels on Wednesday night for crisis talks, and both sides sound gloomy about the prospects of success, a trade deal remains elusive as ever.
This is not how leading Brexiters thought it would pan out. Here’s a reminder of what they said:
The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.
The then international trade secretary made the declaration during a radio interview in 2017.
There is no plan for no deal, because we’re going to get a great deal.
Said during his time as foreign secretary. Johnson assured Britons there was no need to plan for a no-deal scenario. His statement was quickly slapped down by Theresa May’s Downing Street, who insisted that “contingency planning is taking place for a range of scenarios”.
The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.
A month before the EU referendum, Gove, now the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, insisted the UK would “hold all the cards” if it voted to leave the EU.
Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy – the UK holds most of the cards.
The Conservative MP wrote of his confidence about the Brexit negotiations in July 2016, less than a month after the referendum result. “Too many people in government and the professions seem to think the UK is a weak petitioner which has to be very careful in case we are expelled from the single market,” he said.
It will be easy to negotiate these terms, it will be easy to negotiate a trade deal, and of course, it is in European Union’s interest just as much as it is in ours.
Such was the confidence of the then Ukip leader during an interview with BBC Radio 4 on 17 January 2017. He went on to say he was “not trepidatious about this in any way, shape or form.”
To me, Brexit is easy … We have back British passports, we have control of our fishing waters, and our companies are not subject to EU law through the single market.
Said by the man who largely led the charge for Brexit, back in 2016.
What you could do in an afternoon, which won’t take two years, is to say to the European Union: ‘We want to continue with tariff-free trade and so do you, because it’s in your interest.’
Then Ukip’s Brexit spokesman, Batten said Brexit could be sorted “in an afternoon over a cup of coffee”. The Labour MP Alison McGovern hit back at the statement at the time, describing it as nonsense. “The idea that you could sort out customs arrangements for high-value manufacturing like that in an afternoon – that is an insult to my constituents and their jobs,” she said.