Boris Johnson has followed up last night’s warning there’s a “strong possibility” of a no-deal Brexit by saying today it’s now “very, very likely” to be the outcome. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission agrees with the prime minister’s assessment and told EU leaders she is pessimistic about the chances of a deal being reached by the end of Sunday. December 13 is the latest in a long list of “deadlines” that have been broken and extended so it remains to be seen if Sunday really is the end of negotiations and talks.
The real and absolutely fixed deadline is December 31 when the transition period ends and January 1 when the UK will start trading on WTO terms with the EU if no deal has been struck.
Johnson – ‘no-deal will be wonderful for the UK’
The forecast for a no-deal is ‘project fear’ made reality with redundancies across a shrinking economy and chaos at ports affecting everything and everyone. But as always, some will be hit far harder than others.
The prime minister said today that “from where I stand now, here in Blyth [Northumberland] it is looking very, very likely that we will have to go for a solution that I think would be wonderful for the UK, and we’d be able to do exactly what we want from January.”
Unless of course your want is to travel to Europe and stay for more than 90 days, or take your pet dog with you like the last time you went, or go in your car and drive to France as you did before, or move to work and live in Spain or in any of the other 26 nation states that make up the EU. Because all that will be very different from January 1, and even if a deal is struck UK citizens will find that they won’t be able to do “exactly what they want” in the EU after all.
But if you do go, make sure you get health insurance because your EHIC will no longer be valid.
It’s all up to Johnson
Johnson blithely continued: “It obviously would be different from what we’d set out to achieve but I have no doubt this country can get ready and, as I say, come out on World Trade [Organisation] terms.”
The reality is that the future of the UK is entirely dependent on the final choice Johnson will make over the next few days.
Which, for anyone who has been paying attention to the performance of the prime minister and his government over the course of the last year is frankly rather terrifying.
Never mind for now his oven-ready deal or his manifesto promise to ‘get Brexit done’, or indeed anything he ever said or did before 2020. Simply look at his record as prime minister this past year and how his government has handled the pandemic.
Remember how Johnson proudly boasted in March about shaking hands with Covid patients before he ended up in ICU. Consider that this man will decide this country’s future.
His government has delivered the highest death rate in Europe from the virus. It has “spaffed” billions upon billions of tax payer money on a failing test and trace system running on a 20th centruy version of MS Excel. Billions more on Covid contracts for politically connected “chums” with no experience in what they are getting handsomely paid to do.
Then think about how Johnson’s government stood so steadfastly opposed to spending the few million needed to make sure the country’s most vulnerable children get fed.
Then consider his government’s attacks on the democratic process and the right to protest, its war with the civil service, the threats to the judicial process and willingness to break international law.
And remember it is the man at the top of all of this (and much, much more) who alone who gets to decide if Brexit ends in no-deal. Because it really is up to Johnson to decide, a fact which surreally encapsulates the disaster that this year has been.
Given that 2021 is “very, very likely” to start with no-deal – which the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) said will cut the UK’s GDP by at least 2% (very likely more) – it is difficult to see how the prime minister could possibly believe a no-deal Brexit “would be wonderful for the UK”.
Britain is about to experience its worst recession for 300 years. Borrowing is at record levels and the economy has been battered by Covid. The sectors that managed to evade being hit to date, are set to take a pounding with a no-deal Brexit causing delays, closures and redundancies.
Chaos, closures, redundancies – the price of ‘sovereignty’
Chaos at the ports is already a reality. Logjams have caused Honda to suspend manufacturing at their car plant in Swindon because “just-in-time” parts are not being delivered. Industry is suffering. Rolls Royce have announced another 500 jobs will go taking the total number axed this year to 5,500.
Tesco has warned food prices will rise 5% if there is no deal. Famous names on the high street are falling like dominos. Each closure means thousands more losing their jobs. Unemployment is predicted to soar next year raising concerns for homeowners and repossessions.
The value of sterling has risen and fallen in line with the chances of a deal. Last week’s optimism and the two-and-a-half year high against the US dollar has been wiped out by this week’s pessimism. Analysts predict no deal will see a “sharp depreciation” in sterling which will serve to shield the FTSE 100 from big losses, but not the FTSE 250 which will drop some 6-10%. The weaker pound means everything will be more expensive.
And the above just scratches the surface about what is set to befall Britain in less than three weeks, deal or no-deal.
But, as Johnson reminds, the UK will have regained its sovereignty and will therefore be “able to do exactly what we want from January.”