A dark week for Britain. The coronavirus death toll reached over 900 a day and the Prime Minister spent three nights in intensive care – becoming a symbol of the nation’s battle against the virus. Things look a little brighter this weekend, with Boris out of hospital and (we pray) on the mend. The deaths continue but there are hopes that we may have reached something of a plateau, at least in London. Little by little, the curve may be flattening.
Of course, even in this time of crisis, there are some who are trying to exploit the virus for their own ideological ends. We have seen the forces of extreme Remain – or Rejoin, as they should now rightly be called – rearing their heads again. We have long noted that support for the EU has become extremism in some cases: single-minded and immune to rational (rather than ideological) considerations.
Characteristic of this ideological seam of Rejoin is the strange new suggestion that as a consequence of the virus, the UK should delay the transition period. This is a dangerous nonsense. It is more important than ever that we get on with a clean break from the EU, so we can seize the advantages of Brexit. These are clearer than ever in the current crisis, in which it is nation states, not supranational bodies, leading the charge.
Meanwhile, the structures of the EU look shakier than ever. The Coronavirus crisis has accelerated the impact of factors which were already at work before the virus. The long running disagreements between Italy and the European Commission about debt have exploded into a dispute which has major implications for the whole Eurozone. After a sluggish initial response, the EU have this week announced – with much song and dance – that a €500bn rescue package had been agreed. However, the settlement does not include anything on ‘coronabonds’, that would allow financially vulnerable member states to share the burden of additional debt with other EU states.
It has long been true that the logic of a shared currency tended towards closer fiscal union. For Italy, Spain and France, a debt-sharing scheme across the Eurozone looks like the only way forwards. But the German government continues to resist this, knowing that the German taxpayer will not like the idea of bailing out the Southern Europeans. The Spectator is reporting French disillusion with the EU in connection with the Covid-19 virus. Frequent calls of ‘reprendre le controle’ are heard across the political spectrum. Former Commission President Jacques Delors (of ‘Up Yours Delors’ fame in the Sun) has said that the “lack of European solidarity is putting the EU in mortal danger”. Mario Ferrari, the EU’s own science chief, has resigned over their shambolic response to Coronavirus, saying EU incompetence has made him a Eurosceptic, “I arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU [but] the COVID-19 crisis completely changed my views.”
The coronavirus crisis is a reminder that complex supply chains always entail some risks of disruption. It was interesting to hear Toby Anderson, the UK Chief Executive of McKesson, the on the Today programme this week (on 9 April at around 1hr 18), noting that the UK pharmaceutical industry was relatively well prepared for Covid-19 thanks to No Deal planning.
On the website this week
Calls for a transition extension: a Remainer plot or just political kite flying? By Catherine McBride
According to BBC reports, some unnamed UK civil servants and EU businesses want the UK to extend the transition period due to the Covid-19 crisis. This is the very last thing the UK and British business need, and in no way is it practically required. Economist Catherine McBride discusses the situation.
“The UK would immediately lose its negotiating advantage and squander the pressure of a deadline if it were to request an extension now.”
What Will the Post Virus World Look Like? By John Mills
With a long personal experience of running a retail business, John Mills speculates on how the commercial world will look after the corona virus pandemic subsides. He foresees some reduction in wealth inequality and a reassessment of the value, remuneration and respect attached to low paid but essential jobs. A smaller economy may result but with a larger public sector.
“The initial impact of coronavirus everywhere seems to have been to restore a measure of faith in experts and to put a good deal of trust into our existing leaders.”
When Can We Get Back to Work? By Graham Gudgin
Much attention is currently focussed on when the lockdown can be ended, the economy returned to normality and the UK to leave the transition as planned. In this article, BfB co-editor and Cambridge economist Graham Gudgin assesses the evidence and suggests mid-May as a possible date to begin a return to normality.
“In Sweden the government views its electorate as sophisticated and responsible. The UK Government might take the same view of the British people.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook. Susan Nicholson agrees with Catherine McBride’s stance on a transition extension, commenting, ‘Hear, hear. We need to be out of the EU sooner if anything. We need to act flexibly and independently to repair the damage done to our economy by the virus.’
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge