The diplomatic fallout following a no-deal Brexit – in which UK politicians seek to blame Brussels for the UK’s economic situation – could cause damage to important relationships with fellow liberal democracies.
As a legal bid to prevent the potential suspension of the Commons – in order to force through a no-deal Brexit – began a race against time in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd appeared on television to stress the Government was “very clearly focused” on getting a deal with the EU.
Just two months ago, it would have not been unreasonable to have imagined Rudd among the 70-plus MPs and peers supporting the court case, given her memorable line about the idea of suspending democratic oversight of the Government. “I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament,” she said in June. “We are not Stuart kings.”
But yesterday, while she said a no-deal Brexit would be a “challenge for the economy”, she added that this was “why the Government is putting together so much preparation should it come to that”.
Given the lack of any genuinely hopeful signs of a breakthrough in talks between the UK and EU, the former Remainer appears to be going along with the no-deal chaos that now seems almost inevitable.
Even if the legal campaigners win their court case, there’s no guarantee MPs would be able to seize control of power to stop this happening.
The effect of no-deal on the UK economy has been the source of much concern, but yesterday the chief executive of retail Next, Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, a Leave campaigner, claimed the worst outcome would be “mild disruption” because of the UK’s level of preparedness. The Scotsman hopes this is true, but the weight of expert advice is against him.
It will be important to remember, if large numbers of people start to lose their jobs, homes, pensions etc as a result of Brexit, who said what and who exactly was responsible for a no-deal.
Boris Johnson has already attempted to blame the EU, but it has no responsibility to make a deal with the UK, its duty is to look after the EU’s interests.
If a no-deal Brexit wrecks the UK economy – and Rudd yesterday cautioned there were “no guarantees about jobs, in or out, under any economic circumstances” – the danger is it will also damage something we should value highly: good relations with the fellow liberal democracies of the EU.
If Donald Trump begins a full-scale trade war against the EU, the UK could be forced to pick sides just as it seeks a deal with the US.
In these troubled times, liberal democracies should stick together.