The experts always said Brexit would mean paperwork. On Wednesday the two sides of the negotiation proved the point by issuing a flurry of explanatory documents through social media in a spat that swiftly came to be called “the slide wars”.
The unseemly Twitter row was provoked by a post from the Downing Street press office late on Tuesday evening in which the British government gently mocked the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, for his attachment to a slide first produced in 2017.
That document suggested that only a Canada-style trade deal would be on offer to the British government – then led by Theresa May – if it rejected free movement, regulatory alignment, a customs union and the jurisdiction of the European court of justice. “Now they say it’s not on offer after all,” the No 10 press office account tweeted. “Michel Barnier, what’s changed?”
Boris Johnson has railed against the EU’s suggestion that there needs to be continued alignment between the UK and Brussels on state aid rules and environmental, social and workers’ standards to avoid either side receiving a competitive advantage under a new free trade deal.