Brexit snub as boastful French Senator claims Britain will become ‘small island’

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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has claimed Britain has a golden opportunity to play a leading role in shaping the world’s economy now that the nation has freed itself from the shackles of the EU. Speaking at a webinar organised by the Conservative Home website last week, Ms Truss announced she was eyeing more free trade deals – including a lucrative one with the US. Ms Truss, who has recently returned from India for talks aimed at paving the way for an agreement experts predict could be worth up to £100billion, said: “What I think Global Britain represents is a liberalising instinct in favour of free trade, but it is also an ability to do things more flexibly more nimbly and have that freedom of manoeuvre.”

The UK now has an opportunity to be a hub for trade in services, digital and manufacturing, Ms Truss explained.

She added: “We’ve got a trade deal with the EU, but we’re now able to seek to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) worth £9trillion of GDP. We can get deep access to that part of the world.

“We also want to strike a trade deal with the United States, and with countries in the Americas as well.

“And that puts us in a quite unique position of being able to have overlapping trade agreements that enable us to act as a hub for trade.”

Not everyone in Europe is as confident about Britain’s capabilities as Ms Truss, though.

At the end of February, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier appeared before the French Senate and, during the hearing, Paris’ true feelings about the UK’s divorce came into the open.

French Senator Richard Yung warned Britain will end up turning into a “small island”.

He said: “We must welcome the agreement we have struck, but Brexit remains a bad deal, for the United Kingdom, which sees its exports subject to customs and health controls, as for the European Union.

“Air and sea links will be less fluid, the connection to the electricity network will have to be renegotiated within a few years.”

He added: “Boris Johnson’s vision, very 19th century, is Global Britain, which is based on bilateral agreements with all regions of the world.

“For the moment, we only see the forecasts, and it is sad to see this great country limit its ambition to become a small island of free trade and favorable taxation at the gates of Europe.”

Brexit, Mr Yung noted, is also “a bad deal” for France.

JUST IN: French Senator admitted ‘we would lose £550m’ without new Brexit deal

He added: “The more optimistic can hope that the UK’s absence of decision-making mechanisms will allow European policies to be implemented more quickly.

“Controls at the Irish border are actually carried out in Belfast, with the assistance of European customs officials.

“The British Government is asking for a period of ‘grace’ – the word is cruel, but fair – until 2023, as the difficulties of implementation are important.”

French Senator Jean-Francois Rapin, President of the European Affairs committee, also argued the Brexit deal is a “lose-lose agreement” that could cost France €650million (£557m).

He explained: “The fisheries agreement … is fundamental for our fishermen.

“But what about after 2026?

“Without an agreement we would lose €650million (£557m) of catch annually.

“We must ensure our standards are respected to guarantee fair competition and food security.

“There should be alignment in veterinary controls.

“I’m worried about the difference in checks between member states: some ports could be tempted to reduce checks to attract business.”

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According to Professor of French History John Keiger, Mr Barnier’s hearing with the French Senate produced indications of EU and French fears about “Brexit Britain’s next moves”.

He wrote in his piece for Briefings for Britain: “The Barnier hearing indicates how strictly the EU and France will monitor the Brexit agreements, but also where their sensitivities lie.

“France, of all member states, is the most insistent on rigorous application of the agreements.

“But one detects trepidation about the consequences, with the UK representing France’s largest trade surplus by far, as well as being its closest military partner.

“Yet things could be so much worse for the UK.”

He concluded: “Imagine Michel Barnier defeating Macron in 2022 to become French President and a defeated Macron taking the traditional route of failed national politicians to Brussels to replace Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission.

“Perhaps that is too pessimistic a thought even in this bicentenary year of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death.”

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