Irresponsible Approach to Brexit

Boris Johnson, helped by Dominic Cummings, seems to have manoeuvred himself into a position where he can force his will upon the United Kingdom before people fully realise what he is doing.  He promised to leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a Withdrawal Agreement, when he was chosen as Prime Minister.  It does not now seem possible for Parliament to stop him from doing a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – even though MPs have voted against such a course of action (and the public don’t want it either, according to opinion polls).  A last-minute deal with the EU is still possible, but it seems improbable.

A ‘no-deal’ Brexit would harm all British exporters to the EU and the 68 countries with which it has trade deals, at least in the short term, as they would be exposed to tariffs and customs checks until new agreements can be reached. The government has already planned to use part of the M20 as a lorry park, to accommodate the likely queues at Dover, but that would be the only visible sign of the problems created by having no EU Withdrawal Agreement on 31 October.

As explained in a BBC article – WTO rules: What happens if there’s a no-deal Brexit? – the Irish border question is not yet resolved.  And no-one can yet forecast what the full impact of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will be, because the new government has yet to announce its policy on import tariffs; that would affect consumer prices, exposure to global competition in industries such as agriculture and cars, and delays or otherwise on incoming goods.  As ‘no-deal’ cannot yet be assessed on whether it is good for the country, existing support for it can only be based on a desire to honour the 2016 referendum result despite the fact that Brexit had not been defined then (and it still isn’t).

Perhaps, as suggested in The Spectator, “We’re heading for a 1 November election” if Boris Johnson loses a vote of no-confidence – and the article points out that he won’t see constitutional niceties as an obstacle to delivering Brexit on time.  His strategy looks like a clever political ploy, hoping to win against divided opposition before the impact of his actions can be properly assessed.  Future trade deals, with the EU and others, would still be a matter of speculation.  As with the referendum, people would be voting with insufficient information.

His high-handed approach to government will further polarise the country.  Instead of working with MPs across the house to find the most acceptable way forward, he has taken a confrontational approach.  Good government is inclusive: trying to be acceptable to as many people as possible.  Failure to reach out will eventually result in a backlash: Scotland might leave the UK, for example.  Sooner than that, the Conservative Party ought to be punished at the polls for its irresponsible behaviour if it exits the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement.

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