Whatever happened to “the easiest deal in history?”

When Boris Johnson said this time last year that he had an “oven ready” deal with the EU, he neglected to point out that the oven was broken.

He is now breezily assuring us that an “Australian style” deal won’t be too bad; as retailers warn of price rises and supply shortages of everything from food to medicine.

An Australia style deal is no deal at all. Mongolia and Afghanistan have the same “deal” with the EU as Australia does. But, Australia has a certain “White Dominion” atavistic “kith and kin” resonance with a certain kind of Tory voter, all positive associations of Barbecues and beer on Bondi Beach, aspirational Neighbours style suburbia and just a little bit of “common sense” casual racism. Johnson could say “Mongolian style deal” or “Afghan style deal” instead, but that would go down as well as yak milk with these people, so he doesn’t.

Of course, Australia is currently trying to negotiate a closer trade deal with the EU, while the UK is pulling away. Total Australian trade with the EU is significantly smaller than that of the UK.

This may be partly because Australia is 9,000 miles away from Europe, whereas the UK is right on the border.

When considering the percentage of imports and exports, the difference weight of EU trade is even more stark.

The EU is Australia’s third largest trading partner but the UK’s most important.

What also has to be factored in here is that just under half of Australian trade with the EU is actually with the UK – for historic colonial reasons – so the proportion with the rest of Europe is even smaller than appears here. It is therefore less of a problem for Australia to be trading with the EU without a deal than it will be for the UK in three weeks time.

No deal means World Trade Organisation terms. That means tariffs, costs, hold ups. The cost of that will be borne by all of us and it will hit the worst off hardest and will form part of the austerity offensive already being carried through; as the costs of COVID are pushed downwards in lost jobs and cut or frozen wages while the government pulls patriotic poses, ramps up the hostile environment, lines up organisations like the EHRC to pursue culture wars, forbids any teaching that encourages “victim narratives” and pursues a rightward shift in the media environment – because they don’t want a institutionally conservative commentator that passively reflects their line, as the BBC does, they want a cheerleader generating zealous enthusiasm for the traitor hunt that is already well under way; and will be ramped up to shrieking pitch as the “easiest deal in History” fails and lorry drivers stuck in Kent queue up to piss in bottles.

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