Should all attempts to agree to a free trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union ultimately fail, the immediate and inevitable shock wave will bring a sharp and prolonged economic regression — the global marketplace will be sideswiped, money markets rattled and the already fragile investor confidence shaken as a result.
Britain left the EU on February 1 but continues to trade there under the pre-existing rules of the common market and customs area that covers more than half a billion people and collectively creates the world’s third largest economic marketplace. It’s some 1,630 days since Britons narrowly voted for Brexit — and the very final reality of that decision now comes down to these critical hours.
After a year of talks on the future relationship between London and Brussels, that all-essential deal has proved elusive so far, with three central sticking points between the two: fishing rights, a level playing field, and how the deal will be maintained.
Any deal is far better than no deal — and failing to reach an agreement underscores the paucity of this policy that has ignored the economic and social benefits brought from the free movement of goods and services across Europe
It’s important to remember that all but the most ardent Brexiteers have said that a no-deal Brexit had to be avoided at all costs. Failing to do so would mean the immediate introduction of tariffs come January 1. Manufacturers, farmers, traders — anyone and everyone sending anything between Britain and 27 European states — will face long delays.
Not good news for Britain’s economy
Consumers face paying much higher prices for less choice on supermarket shelves. The pound will plummet, medicines are in short supply and all at a time when Britain’s economy has endured its worst performance in 309 years as a result of coronavirus.
A mantra of ardent Brexiteers is that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. That is not the case. Any deal is far better than no deal — and failing to reach an agreement underscores the paucity of this policy that has ignored the economic and social benefits brought from the free movement of goods and services across Europe.
This is a critical juncture in history, a moment we can point to as being one where bold leaders made the right decisions at the right time. Or it is a day that we will look back upon with regret, shake our heads and ruefully mutter: “if only…”
For any deal to be reached, both sides must bend and find a middle ground that is essential to prevent turmoil, tumult and tariffs. The art of compromise is not weakness; it is the act of the wise.