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Boris Johnson: trade deals will be governed by 'science' not 'mumbo-jumbo'

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Boris Johnson: trade deals will be governed by 'science' not 'mumbo-jumbo'
Copyright  Paul Ellis/Pool photo via AP
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared willing to accept a looser free-trade agreement with the EU as he defended the UK's track record on rights and environmental standards in comparison with the bloc.

Johnson said the UK was ahead of EU standards and would not fall into "Dickensian squalor" in leaving the bloc as he spoke at the Old Royal Naval College in London and discussed post-Brexit relations.

The EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier in the day that the more common standards, the higher quality access the UK would have.

The UK formally left the bloc on Friday night but will now have to negotiate its future trading relationship with the world's second-largest economy. There is an 11-month transition to determine the future relationship between the UK and the bloc.

"We have settled a long-running question of sovereign authority," Johnson said, adding that the UK was "reemerging" after years of "hibernation".

Johnson said that in doing free trade deals they would be governed by "science" and not by "mumbo-jumbo". He said they wanted a thriving trade relationship with the EU but said the UK should not be required to accept EU rules.

He added that on fishing, the EU needed to respect that the UK would control its own waters.

"The question is whether we agree a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s – or more like Australia’s. And I have no doubt that in either case the UK will prosper," Johnson said.

The UK prime minister avoided questions addressing whether or not he would consider no trade deal, emphasising that there was an existing "deal".

But many observers pointed out that Australia does not currently have a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

The EU's Brexit negotiator had said earlier in the day that Britain could not undercut EU regulations. Michel Barnier said the EU aimed to negotiate a free trade agreement with zero tariffs and quotas.

"Our aim is to conclude an ambitious partnership with the UK," the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said.

Read more: EU's Barnier presents mandate for Brexit talks

Johnson also responded to a question recent posters that appeared in England demanding that people "speak English". The prime minister said he encouraged people living in the UK to learn English but said he had not heard of the idea of the posters.

On the recent knife attack in Streatham, the prime minister said that it was "very tough" to deradicalise people which was why he did not support automatic early release of prisoners.