Boris Johnson must not allow no-deal Brexit to damage economy already weakened by Covid – leader comment
Imagine for a moment that the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak had never happened. The big news in the UK would have undoubtedly been Brexit, particularly the lamentable progress of trade talks with the European Union and the beginning of similarly vital negotiations with the United States.
The fact that this has dropped off the radar almost completely amid the current crisis shows just how dramatically our priorities have changed, but then saving people’s lives and restarting our economy safely are self-evidently far more important.
And yet, the UK Government is pressing ahead with its original pre-Covid deadline – to agree a trade deal with Brussels or leave without one by the end of this year – even though it was already widely seen as overly optimistic before the pandemic began.
Now Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney has warned the two negotiating teams may “reach yet another crisis point” in the next few weeks without significant developments. This, he said, was “very, very serious” from Ireland’s point of view because of the trade links between the two countries.
And it’s not just Ireland that should be concerned. Last year, the International Monetary Fund warned a no-deal Brexit “that severely disrupts supply chains and raises trade costs could potentially have large and long-lasting negative impacts on the economies of the United Kingdom and the European Union”.
In fact, the damage could be so severe that the whole world suffers a “sharp deterioration” in its fortunes, the IMF added. In other words, no-deal risks creating an economic storm of global dimensions with the UK experiencing the full force of its fury.
Given the extent of the damage the UK and the world is currently suffering because of the Covid crisis, it is reckless in the extreme for the UK Government to insist on sticking to its own arbitrarily imposed deadline.
Boris Johnson has a large majority and a five-year term in which to make sure Brexit happens, so there is no reason to rush the talks with the EU. It is imperative that we reach a deal, much more so than it was before, and simply not acceptable to fail to do so.
A good general knows that few battleplans survive for long after the fighting begins. A good leader must know when to change course in response to events. Only a bad one ploughs on regardless.
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