• Johnson lauds pact as offering `virtually unencumbered trade'
  • Negotiations started in 2009, projected to be in force in 2017

London Mayor Boris Johnson, one of the leading advocates of the U.K. leaving the European Union, suggested that a Canada-EU trade deal that’s been seven years in the making offers a model for Britain to use after a so-called Brexit.

“We should strike a new free-trade deal on the lines of what Canada has just achieved,” Johnson told staff on Friday at a warehouse in Dartford, southeast of London, where he was on his first campaign visit. “They’ve taken out the vast majority of tariffs. They have virtually unencumbered trade now. We want a relationship based on trade and cooperation.”

Canada’s trade negotiations with the EU started in 2009, with agreement reached on a draft deal in 2014. It is currently projected to come into force in 2017. That lends weight to Prime Minister David Cameron’s warnings in his campaign to stay in the bloc that the U.K. would take years to renegotiate all its trade agreements if it left the EU.

Johnson brushed aside such warnings as part of a government fear campaign in the run-up to the June 23 referendum on EU membership. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he said. “And even fear isn’t particularly scary at the moment.”

The Canadian deal would end 98 percent of tariffs on goods from the outset and 99 percent after seven years. Each side would dismantle all industrial tariffs and more than 90 percent of agricultural duties. Markets for services and public procurement would also be opened under the pact. However, the agreement still needs the approval of the EU’s national governments and of the European Parliament.

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