Boris Johnson’s 570 Billion Reasons for Wanting an EU Trade Deal



Zoe Schneeweiss and Jeremy Diamond | Bloomberg

Brexit shattered 50 years of trade policy in Britain, divorcing the country from its single largest market. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now trying to glue the pieces back together.

Since Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, Johnson has dispatched his foreign secretary on a tour of Australia and Japan to show that Britain is open for business, while his government has pushed the idea of a trade agreement with the U.S.

But there is one market that matters more than any other: the EU. The bloc is by far the U.K.’s biggest trade destination, accounting for 436 billion pounds ($570 billion) of commerce last year — almost 50% of the country’s total trade in goods.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers that will dictate Britain’s priorities in coming months.

The country that is Britain’s biggest individual trading partner is the U.S., with Germany close behind. That explains Johnson’s priority to strike a deal quickly with President Donald Trump’s administration. But the EU as a whole remains by far the biggest bloc that Britain does business with — even if the share of U.K. exports going to the EU has fallen over time.

Yet Brussels is in no hurry to give Britain access to its market unless Johnson agrees to abide by its rules. If the prime minister cannot reach a deal with the bloc by the year-end, Britain will crash out of the EU in what would look much very like a no-deal Brexit. Hence Johnson’s interest in inking additional deals with countries around the world.

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