Brexit: Boris Johnson's no-deal will damage the UK for years to come – Scotsman comment

The UK’s declaration that the Brexit trade talks are “over” was either a bluff ahead of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s visit to London or a sign that the Government has succumbed to the dangerous delusions of the most feverish of Brexiteers.

Boris Johnson is leading the UK towards a no-deal Brexit (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

No more talks means the UK is now heading for a no-deal Brexit on 31 December. Boris Johnson talked up the prospect of an Australian-style relationship with the EU – ie one based largely on World Trade Organisation rules or, more simply, a no-deal – but he sounded peeved that Brussels was, in his words, not prepared to offer the UK the same terms as Canada “after 45 years of membership”.

"With high hearts and with complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative [Australia’s WTO], and we will prosper mightily as an independent free-trading nation, controlling our own borders, our fisheries and setting our own laws,” he said.

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The Prime Minister may have attempted his usual breezy confidence but it did not sit well alongside his repeated attempts to blame the EU. If the UK is going to “prosper mightily”, why blame anyone? But, given Johnson said in 2019 that the chances of a no-deal Brexit were “a million-to-one against”, some may doubt his powers as a forecaster.

Failing a sudden breakthrough, in just ten weeks’ time, a hard border will slam down between Britain and the EU, the destination for 43 per cent of our exports and the source of 51 per cent of our imports. Where this leaves Northern Ireland and its peace process, with the Withdrawal Agreement’s provisions thrown into doubt by the Internal Market Bill, is hard to contemplate.

If this is just macho posturing by people with a childish attitude to negotiation – which has already squandered the genuine goodwill felt towards Britain on the Continent – they may be about to learn a hard lesson about the disparity in EU and UK economic strength.

However, it is not they who will pay the price, but the people of this country. A no-deal Brexit is an act of national self-harm and, in the midst of the great crisis of Covid, one that could damage the prospects of a generation.

We hope for the best, but fear the worst.

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