Boris Johnson must abandon his self-imposed deadline for the Brexit transition period to end if that is necessary to get a trade deal with the European Union.
According to an assessment produced last year by the Office for Budget Responsibility, independent advisers to the UK Government, a no-deal Brexit would push Britain into a recession.
Now, in normal times – and it’s clear that our politics has long since departed that state – any Prime Minister who deliberately decided to take steps that would cause a recession – with the accompanying job losses, falling house prices and general misery – would not last long.
However, as things stand, Boris Johnson is on course to do just that by insisting on his self-imposed deadline for the Brexit transition period to end by December 2020.
Many expert commentators have warned that a year is not long enough for the complicated process of negotiating a trade deal with the European Union. Now, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said it would be “impossible” to agree a comprehensive deal in such a short time.
Both sides say they want an “ambitious” deal so it would appear they share the same overall goal, but one that may be missed simply because of Johnson’s oft-stated desire to “get Brexit done”.
It proved to be a winning slogan at the general election. However, the size of the Prime Minister’s victory actually gives him the political capital to disappoint the most hardcore of Brexiteers and he must be prepared to do so if a delay is required to get a good trade deal.
Von der Leyen’s remarks may simply represent her opening position and be part of her negotiating strategy, so perhaps Johnson could achieve this apparent “mission impossible” which would add to his political achievements to date.
But Brexit is an event that will affect this country’s economy – and therefore the wealth, health and happiness of all of us – for decades to come.
What’s that measured against a few months or a year of heartache for Nigel Farage and co? Johnson would easily weather any storm of outrage from him and like-minded Tories.
And indeed, the success of the entire Brexit project may depend on the trade deals the UK can strike, most particularly with the EU and the US. If Johnson rushes so quickly for the exit door that the UK leaves without a deal, it could be heading for a considerable fall.
If things start to go wrong, one thing is certain: calls for the UK to rejoin the EU will start to grow.