Brexit  

Britain is in for a tough ride

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

Remember Brexit? Today seems a world away from where we were just a few months ago, but this month the government brought the B-word back to the news pages when it confirmed there would be no extension to the transition period.

Britain leaves the EU on December 31 2020. Come hell or high water, or economic collapse.

Even though Michael Gove was categoric about this when he met his EU counterparts in early June, we may yet see that date move, if past form is anything to go by. We will have to wait and see.

However, let us assume for now that Britain will have actually left – not just officially left as that happened at the end of January this year – the EU, and will be standing on its own ready to take on the world and make trade deals that will be the envy of our European cousins across La Manche.

All right, I embellished that last bit, but I am sure someone somewhere who is in favour of this has said something similar at some point.

The fact is that for now, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the EU to work with the UK government to speed up the talks, even saying he sees no reason why an outline trade deal could not be completed as soon as July.

I have no problem with someone being optimistic, as I tend to be a half-glass-full person myself.

But by July? Really? When the actual vote to leave the EU was around four years ago and both Theresa May and now Boris Johnson have failed to get close enough to a trade deal in all that time to get it across the proverbial line?

Plus, in case anyone needed reminding, there is the very large Covid-19-shaped elephant in the room that has put a spanner in the works for, well, everything really.

Not least high level and intense negotiations for future trade partnerships between two sides who are failing to agree on anything much.

The wisdom of not extending the transition period really should be examined and challenged.

Both the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford had requested an extension to the transition period. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Even the EU has said it is still open to an extension of the transition period, but the government is currently adamant this will not happen.

Depending on your point of view, this approach is either foolhardy or utter genius.

The Covid-19 pandemic which has shutdown economies worldwide has taken a massive toll already on the UK economy.

In April alone, the UK’s GDP fell by a record of 20.4 per cent as all types of businesses shut their doors and either furloughed workers or had their staff work from home where they could.