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Boris Johnson is dancing with danger by threatening a crash-out Brexit

9 243 329
18.10.2020

Boris Johnson is telling Britain to prepare to become Australia. By this, he does not mean that we can look forward to moving to the southern hemisphere in time for a sunkissed Christmas and barbecued turkey on Bondi beach. He means that he is threatening to make a Covid-bleak winter even darker. When he talks about an “Australian-type” future for the UK, that is a euphemism for the total failure of the negotiations with the EU and Britain crashing out of the single market without any substitute trade agreement at the end of the year.

The most fanatically Brexity people around the prime minister will be entirely relaxed – delighted even – if that is the outcome. A nightmare for many, it is a dream for them. They smack their lips at the thought of the hardest of hard Brexits. As one senior Tory puts it: “Boris will have Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain in his ear saying, ‘Let’s stick it to the EU and celebrate by sinking a bunch of French fishing boats on New Year’s Day’.” Similar sentiments – let’s just blow the whole thing up – can be found among Brextremist Tory MPs in the Commons.

Fortunately for Britain, these are not the only voices in the prime minister’s ear. There are some more rational people in government, people who live in the real world, rather than a fantasy-based universe, and they are increasingly terrorised by the prospect of a crash-out at the end of December. Those who are acutely anxious about this outcome include key players in the cabinet.

Colleagues of Michael Gove report that he has become steadily more alarmed about how badly Britain will suffer. Beef and lamb farmers would face tariffs of 40% to 100%, which would put many of them out of business. Car manufacturers would be confronted with export duties of 10%, which would make the viability of some of their factories highly doubtful. As the minister with chief responsibility for no-deal contingency planning, Mr Gove knows better than most what it would mean. The government’s own “reasonable worst case scenario” suggests that up to 70% of lorries travelling to the EU might not be ready for new customs checks and the flow rate across the Channel via Dover and Eurotunnel could be cut by up to 80%. Huge waves of disruption would engulf vital commerce in mid-winter, a season when Britain is particularly........

© The Guardian


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