Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has accused the prime minister of embarking on a dangerous game of ‘smoke and mirrors’ when he set out his plans for the UK’s future trade policy in a long and rambling speech in London today (Monday 3 February).

Mr Johnson appeared to indicate that he wanted to sign a Canada style free trade agreement with the European Union by the end of 2020 but would be prepared to opt for an Australian style deal if this was not achieved.

Johnson's bumble and bluster

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, said: “If you cut through the bumble and bluster there is a great deal in this speech that the UK’s manufacturing sector will find deeply worrying.

“The prime minister is playing a dangerous game of smoke and mirrors, promising free trade on one hand but then being prepared to agree an Australian style agreement that would make much of the UK’s manufacturing sector uncompetitive overnight.

“At best a Canada style free trade agreement will result in the return of customs checks which will play havoc with the frictionless trade arrangements that much of the UK manufacturing sector relies upon and the wholesale exclusion of our service sectors from any deal, including finance.

“The public must not be fooled by the prospect of a so called Australian style arrangement, which is in effect no deal with some very limited agreements tagged on. This would result in huge barriers to trade and would have a massive effect on the future of UK industry.

“The prime minister needs to cut out the bluster and listen to the leaders of the key industries that rely on exports and imports on a daily basis, such as the automotive sector.

“If our manufacturing sector is not going to be hugely damaged when the transition period finishes at the end of the year then it is essential that tariff free frictionless trade is guaranteed.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.