Boris Johnson is in 'great difficulty' admits Steve Baker
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The Government’s ability to capitalise on post-Brexit trade has been hampered by recent scandals, including the row over Downing Street “Christmas parties”, a trade expert has said. Michael Gasiorek, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and specialist in international trade, told Express.co.uk that “other countries are looking at what’s going on currently in British politics”.
He said the “behaviour” of senior British officials would cause other world leaders to “question how well this country is being governed” – something which he said would have an “impact on the immediate influence of the UK on the world stage”.
The Government has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months, including allegations that Christmas parties were held in Downing Street while the rest of the country was in lockdown.
This week, the Mirror released a picture of one of the parties, showing 24 people crowded together in a room in the Conservative Party’s Westminster HQ for an event organised by Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign.
Before that, Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire for a “sleaze” scandal, relating to former Tory MP Owen Paterson.
MPs voted to overturn a 30-day suspension for their fellow MP, despite it being recommended by the MPs’ watchdog.
This came after Mr Paterson was found guilty of breaching parliamentary lobbying rules for his second job.
Speaking about the various scandals, Mr Gasiorek told Express.co.uk that it is “not playing out well on the international stage”.
He said: “I don’t think the current government has done itself any favours on the international stage in terms of the way it behaves.
“It’s hard to think that other countries aren’t looking at what’s going on currently, in British politics, and all the kerfuffles over Christmas parties, over MPs second jobs and all this, without questioning how well this country is being governed.
“And inevitably, that has an impact on the immediate influence of the UK on the world stage.
“It is hard to take seriously a leader that many people believe is quite happy to be economical with the truth.
“Throw into the mix the problems over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
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“And obviously these two points are kind of related because supposedly the withdrawal agreement was a great deal and there was going to be no barrier to trade between GB and Northern Ireland and it turned out that that is not the case.
“There are barriers. There are problems. They do need resolving, and he is, I think, being fairly inflexible in the way it wants to resolve those.
“And that’s not playing out well on the international stage.”
According to Mr Gasiorek, a free trade deal with the US is “not going to happen for a long time”, something which partly stems from the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He said: “The influence of the Irish in US politics is quite high, and there are real concerns in the US about the stances being taken by the British Government in its dispute with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“It’s not going to happen for a long time, I don’t think.
“A day is a long time in politics, as we know. If you have a different leader in the UK, you possibly have a different leader in America and things could change in three or four years time.
“But currently I think there is no immediate prospect of a free trade deal in the next few years with America.”
Brexit Minister Lord Frost and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic have been locked in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol since October.
The Brexit Minister has demanded that the role of the European Court of Justice in policing the Protocol come to an end but the EU has so far refused to cave to his demands.
The Protocol was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland after the UK left the EU.
But because Northern Ireland remained within the EU’s single market for goods, a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.
The Protocol has come under fire because of border checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which have resulted in delays and supermarket shortages.
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