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Looks like a good year to bury any Brexit bad news – thanks to Covid-19, we can have a no-deal breakup and not even notice

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Looks like a good year to bury any Brexit bad news – thanks to Covid-19, we can have a no-deal breakup and not even notice
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has taught us one lesson: that a no-deal Brexit, despite the last four years of scaremongering, abuse and threats, is genuinely nothing to worry about.

The OECD warned last year that no-deal Britain would take a one-percent hit to its GDP this year, followed by 0.5 percent next year, and again in 2022. Not great news, but certainly not enough to take the possibility of no-deal off the negotiating table as talks continued with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team.

Things have changed since then, of course, to a point where those figures suddenly look positively rosy. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the British economy faces a 6.5 percent GDP slump this year and an imminent recession lasting lord knows how long thanks to the economic impact of the global pandemic.

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What’s a one-percent no-deal slump in that context? We could wear this minor hit from leaving the EU without a trade agreement and no-one would even notice its impact.

Bearing those figures in mind, maybe the government can make best use of this particular crisis by ramping up the pressure on the EU to get more of what we want, fully prepared to accept failure and leave without signing anything.

Then we could absorb any economic hit as part of the larger malaise.

It’s not as if Europe’s leaders haven’t got a few more important things to worry about, as their own economies appear to be going to the knacker’s yard quicker than ours. In the first three months of this year, the French economy declined by 5.8 percent, Spain’s by 5.2 percent and Italy’s by 4.7 percent, their steepest downturns since World War II.

Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, this week warned that the eurozone economy could shrink by as much as 12 percent this year, adding: “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime.”

Also on rt.com Eurozone faces deep economic crisis after its worst quarter ever

You might think, given those numbers, that the Europeans would be prepared to make a few concessions to UK negotiators to not do themselves even more damage and disrupt trade with us. And, if they don’t, no problem. Au revoir, adios, auf wiedersehen.

Our divorce would then be akin to that of a victim of violence, where medics ignore his black eye while frantically tending the gaping, sucking gunshot wound to his chest.

Focusing on the bigger problem makes the smaller one seem that much more insignificant.
Identifying the grander issues is how the UK will deal with its economic recovery: freed of the restraining hand of Brussels, we can take big, bold measures to drag us all back on to our feet.

With 81 percent of our exports being in the service industries, we’re not hugely reliant on a large manufacturing sector, needing to reconnect with suppliers and employees, before we can start things running again.

And if we are hit by further lockdowns going forward, which seems likely, then the agility of our economy should hold us in good stead.

Keep in mind that all the worst consequences we were told would result from a no-deal Brexit have already come to pass… on steroids.

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Across Europe, foreign travel is at a standstill, national borders are closed, children have been locked inside their homes for weeks, shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas are shut. Sea freight has been decimated. Public transport is running at passenger levels only ever seen in those post-apocalyptic TV series where a major part of the population has been wiped out.

Governments have called their citizens home from the four corners of the world, then insisted they stay indoors. They have then shut the national borders and made it clear that foreigners are not welcome.

There would never be a no-deal scenario that would cause this much chaos for both the UK and the EU, so it makes the earlier hankie-wringing a bit old maid-ish.

What’s even more surprising is that despite the incredible ask that is being made of the people in this crisis, almost everyone still supports the lockdown!

The original UK version was supported by a massive 93 percent of people when first implemented at the end of March and even now, after five weeks of enduring draconian restrictions, a study from Kings College has found that only nine percent of people are actually resistant to the measures in place.

It shows that if we can get through this pandemic and recover from the economic tsunami that has followed, then the idea of a no deal Brexit, when it finally and probably inevitably arrives, will be nothing at all.

A barely noticed bump in the road, seen only in the rearview mirror, as we look forward to the future.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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