Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said yesterday, 22 September 2016, that the United Kingdom will seek a “jumbo free trade deal” with the European Union.

Johnson was optimistic about Britain’s future outside of the European Union, telling Sky News, “[w]e think we can do extremely well with a global free trade package, overwhelmingly in the interests of our partners“.

The Foreign Secretary indicated that he wants a trade deal that provides access to the Single Market, in line with Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s comments on 21 September (see our previous Blog post on this topic here), without permitting uncontrolled immigration of EU citizens. In return for access to the Single Market, the European Union has said that the UK would need to accept the free movement of labour. Johnson remarked that this argument was “absolute baloney” and that “[t]he two things have nothing to do with each other“.

The Foreign Secretary also suggested that Britain may invoke Article 50 and start the procedure to leave the European Union early next year:

What we’re doing is talking to our European friends and partners now in the expectation that, by the early part of next year, you will see an Article 50 letter, we will invoke that, and in that letter I’m sure we will be setting out some parameters for how we propose to take this forward.”

He added that Britain may not need two years to negotiate a deal:

You have two years to pull it off. I don’t actually think we will necessarily need to spend a full two years but let’s see how we go.”

Others in government are concerned that Britain may end up landing a poor deal by triggering proceedings too early, as the government has not yet had time to form a clear negotiating stance.