We are now three weeks away from the transition period ending and a no-deal Brexit is still very much on the table. The British public remains none the wiser on government plans to secure trade and the UK economy, once the country leaves the single market.
When he was elected, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the government had an “oven-ready” deal. Now would be a good time to reveal it. From a public perspective, it appears there is nothing to be offered between a deal with the EU.
However, talks between the EU and UK have reportedly made little to no progress over the 4 years that should have been spent establishing a compromise deal; the supposed ‘Soft Brexit’.
With three weeks to go, talks are still breaking down over issues such as fishing which should be a relatively easy issue to sort through if the government remained consistent in its Brexit negotiations.
Instead, rules surrounding key issues such as travelling between the UK and EU, trade and business has remained unchanged.
Come the 1st of January, the UK will leave the EU regardless of whether issues have been ironed out or not. It should make sense for the negotiation team to firstly secure a trade deal rather than bickering over fishing rights.
Brexit will affect EU trade. With or without a deal, there would inevitably be some disruptions. However, with a trade deal secured they would be short-lived and likewise, cause less harm to the economy.
For example, the Yellowhammer contingency plan, the government’s document on the impact of a no-deal Brexit, stated that food prices would rise with an increase in illegal black-market trading and public disorder would be increased as adult social care could fall through.
In fact, throughout the majority of the Brexit campaign and transition period, the government appears to have been more focused on changing immigration rules; ‘taking back control’ over the UK immigration system, despite the fact that we have always had control of our own borders.
This rhetoric achieved an anti-immigration agenda, that has lead to unfair and increasingly anti-migrant and anti-asylum seeker rules in the UK.
Come the new year, fundamental changes to immigration will come about regardless of whether a trading agreement has been reached with Brussels.
Priti Patel’s actions have drawn much criticism, for continuing to push an inefficient and hostile immigration system ending freedom of movement and making EU citizens rights in this country insecure.
For example, the EU Settlement Scheme that was supposed to smooth the transition for EU citizens living in the UK by providing a ‘settled status’ which could lead to some migrants being heavily disadvantaged and even undocumented When seen through the lens of ending freedom of movement and immigration, the truth of what kind of Brexit would transpire becomes clearer.
The End of Soft Brexit
The government’s Vote Leave campaign originally promised a ‘soft Brexit’ deal in the Referendum, one that kept the UK closely aligned with the EU and supposedly the ‘exact same benefits’.
With four years worth of hindsight however, it appears this made no sense and was never going to be the case when the government’s hard-line campaign became clear in 2017. Economic and political experts knew early on that a diplomatic event as complex as leaving the EU would need careful planning and negotiation.
What we got instead was two Prime Ministers using meaningless phrases like “Brexit means Brexit”, dedicated to abstract ideologies and reckless action which has done nothing but ruined the UK’s image as a reputable country in Europe.
When it comes to the Labour opposition taking a stance against the government’s lack of a proper deal, all we can see is the Shadow Cabinet sitting on the fence rather than an effective challenge.
When Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party at the beginning of Brexit, he took a hard-line and uncompromising position to May’s original deal.
This stance was confusing for Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet as on the other side of the fence they promised to improve the relationship with the EU.
Current Labour leader Keir Starmer seems to be standing by his strategy of backing any meagre deal the government comes to, otherwise known as doing nothing.
He is doing this despite very clear signals that this could lead to a backbench rebellion which would seriously damage the legitimacy of his leadership.
It is understandable that this is part of Starmer’s wider strategy to try and win back what he sees as lost working-class voters who may not forgive Labour for backing a Brexit deal. By contrast, many MPs believe this strategy will in fact lose more Labour voters
Terms No PM Would Accept?
Come December 31st, the government will have run out of options and the transition period will end, regardless of whether a deal has been met or not. Johnson has crisis talks once again in Brussels with Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission president with a dinner taking place last night.
It is up to them to decide what priorities they choose in the coming weeks to secure Britain’s economy as a nation separated from trade with the EU.
We can expect that if no deal has been made at the end of the transition period, Johnson will no doubt attempt to blame the EU for not compromising on his government’s terms.
There have already been signs of this, with Johnson stating that the EU are offering terms that ‘no British Prime Minister would accept’ and that even with no deal, it presents an ‘exciting opportunity’. The country is now in a position where it has been backed into a corner over Brexit with the only solution almost completely out of reach. We may be the closest we’ve ever been to a no-deal Brexit.