Brexit ambassador Boris Johnson frustrates EU leaders
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is Britain's top diplomat tasked with winning international friends as the country prepares its exit from the European Union (EU).
So far, that is turning into mission impossible, as EU leaders accuse him of offering insubstantial and unrealistic visions of the UK's future outside the 28-nation bloc.
The latest critic is Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who told the BBC on Tuesday that Johnson "is offering to the British people options that are really not available.
"There is no win-win situation" with Brexit, Dijsselbloem said. "It is going to be a lose-lose situation."
Johnson is one of Britain's best-known politicians, famous at home and abroad for his tousled hair, rumpled appearance and florid speeches studded with Latin phrases. A leader of the victorious 'Leave' campaign in Britain's EU membership referendum, he was named foreign secretary when Prime Minister Theresa May took office in July.
For the last few months, he has been touring EU capitals ahead of formal exit talks, expected to start next year.
LEAVING CUSTOMS UNION
British officials have been reluctant to provide details of what deal they hope to strike with the bloc. But Johnson was quoted this week by the Czech newspaper Hospodarske Noviny as saying the UK would likely have to leave the EU customs union, while retaining access to the bloc's single market in goods and services.
The customs union and the single market are both pillars of the EU's model of tariff-free trade within its bloc of 500 million people. Members of the customs union trade tariff-free, but impose common levies on imports from outside the union.
Dijsselbloem who also heads the group of 19 countries who use the common euro currency said Johnson "is saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable.
"To say, 'We could be inside the internal market, keep full access to the internal market, but be outside the customs union' this is just impossible, it doesn't exist," Dijsselbloem told the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme.