Countdown to Brexit: dealing with no deal
It’s easy to forget that Britain has already left the EU. That momentous event occurred at 11 pm GMT on 31 January 2020. The tortuous Brexit experience we are currently enduring is of course the transition period, which in itself ends on 31 December of this year.
For the final few weeks of that period, although the UK is no longer part of the EU’s political bodies or institutions, it remains subject to EU laws and is still part of the EU customs union, single market and community preference.
After then, ready or not, we’re out, game over. Any chance of an extension to the transition period has passed, and the government never wanted to consider that anyway.
So what now? Are we ready for Brexit, deal or no deal?
So come the New Year we either have a deal or we face the reality of a ‘Hard Brexit,’ an outcome that some hardliners actually desire but many certainly fear.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had an effect on negotiations, but the feeling persists that the UK has made excessive demands in its bargaining in the hope that the EU would eventually cave in to sustained pressure.
Now the government has raised the stakes yet again by openly stating that it does not feel bound by the Withdrawal Agreement signed less than a year ago. This proposed breaking of international law has sparked national and international fury and condemnation, and has only increased the suspicion that there never will be a deal.
Downing Street is already claiming it will now be ‘very difficult’ to reach a trade deal by the end of December, blaming Brussels’ insistence on tackling tough issues up front. But this is nothing new; the EU has consistently said it wants to see the contentious issues like fisheries policy and state aid settled first.
It seemed so simple when Boris Johnson and the Conservatives won an overwhelming General Election victory last December, sweeping to power with the promise to ‘Get Brexit Done.’
According to Johnson, his ‘oven ready deal’ was waiting to go. Somehow that deal never did get cooked and in the months that followed other sound bite solutions like ‘Let’s Get Going,’ have somehow – well, never – got going. So what now? Are we ready for Brexit, deal or no deal?
What our surveys show
As the deadline approaches, there is no doubt that the British public is anxious. The coronavirus crisis changed the economic face of Britain and the world, leaving many thousands here out of work and tipping the UK into its biggest ever recession.
Most of us, therefore, whether or not we voted to leave the EU, wanted a smooth transition and a deal that was fair and acceptable to both sides. That hasn’t happened and it looks increasingly as though it won’t happen, and the majority of us are unhappy.
A clear majority (62%) say we are ‘unprepared’ or ‘very unprepared’ for Brexit, with just 27% saying we are ‘fairly prepared’ or ‘well prepared.’ It is acknowledged that the virus has had an effect, but the government receives most of the blame for the failure to reach a deal.
Almost 70% of us are worried or even angry at the way negotiations have been conducted. And damningly for the government, more than half of us (53%) believe that Brexit will only make things worse for Britain’s failing economy.