The tears of joy and sadness seen on Brexit Day had barely dried when the U.K. and EU were at each other's throats again ahead of trade talks set to last until the end of the year.
The U.K. and EU both set out their negotiating positions on Monday with Prime Minister Boris Johnson blithely stating that there was "no need" for the U.K. to accept EU rules as part of a free trade agreement, and if the EU won't budge and give it a Canada-style free trade agreement, it could walk away.
"There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept U.K. rules," the U.K. leader said.
Meanwhile in Brussels Monday, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier stated practically the opposite: That while the EU wants an "highly ambitious" trade deal with U.K., with zero tariffs and quotas on all goods, such an offer was reliant on the U.K. agreeing to open and fair competition in the long-term and guarantees to ensure a "level playing field."
But no need to fear everyone: Johnson said Monday that the U.K. will prosper whatever trade deal it gets, likening the country to a "supercharged" free trade superman while at the same time promising that the country would not engage in some "cut throat race to the bottom" with the EU to undermine its economy.
Expect more of the same for the next 11 months. In fact, the U.K. had barely exited through the EU's gift shop this weekend when it started talking tough about the future relationship it was going to have with the bloc. This is just the spirit of goodwill and diplomacy you want to see ahead of any negotiating process.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab insisted on Sunday that the U.K. had learned from negotiating the Brexit divorce deal, in which red lines were drawn then eventually crossed out in desperation, but then proceeded to say that following EU rules after 2021 "just ain't happening."
Raab was duly accused of "saber-rattling" and of making "puerile" comments by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called on the U.K to dial down the "nationalist rhetoric."
The latter added that trade talks might get off to a better start if they did "not repeat some of the errors that were made in the last two and a half years."
"Let's not set such rigid red lines that makes it hard to come to an agreement and let's tone down the kind of nationalistic rhetoric," Varadkar told the BBC.
The British government appears to have dug its heels in already and trade talks have not yet even begun (they are not expected to begin in earnest until March).
Johnson has talked of "unleashing Britain's potential" post-Brexit but the British government's current negotiating stance and dogmatic attitude could risk doing the opposite.