Boris will undoubtedly blaim ‘EU intransigence’, but no trading bloc or nation could possibly have agreed to Johnson’s demands – and this has been blindingly obvious from the outset.
The reason for defining common standards for health, safety, animal welfare, environmental issues, and for limiting Government subsidies is to ensure that domestic manufacturers are not undercut by cheap imports that are produced by methods that are unethical or that involve unfair competitive practices. The common standards help to keep out goods produced by environmentally damaging methods or with starvation level wages or that involve animal cruelty or that are judged to pose a risk to health or safety. If the UK chooses to apply different standards on any of these issues then it cant be given free access to the EU trade area. It is not just that anything we produce ourselves may not meet EU regulations and standards, it is that producers elsewhere in the globe will want to channel their exports via the UK as a way to access the EU market.
The EU have said, very fairly, that we can continue having unimpeded access to the EU market as long as we adhere to the same rules and standards as members of that market. If we diverge from those rules and standards, they reserve the right to impose tariffs or other penalties to prevent us from flogging stuff in the EU that actual members of the EU would not be permitted to sell. This is entirely reasonable, and indeed essential if the single market is not to be fatally undermined.
The stupidity of the HMG approach is that diverging from EU standards will not only risk barring our producers from the EU single market, it may also bar us from every other market. At present, our goods are accepted around the world because they conform to EU standards that the local authorities find acceptable as set out in trade agreements with the EU. As we are no longer party to those trade agreements, our future access to every market depends on persuading other trading partners to accept British standards that currently have no accreditation and no track record.