Brexit is over. So the current UK government would have you believe. Prime Minister Boris Johnson after all campaigned in the December General Election, which he won with a handsome majority, on the simple but effective slogan; ‘Get Brexit Done’. His subsequent new government immediately set about agreeing the EU Withdrawal Bill, meaning that come the end of January the UK will have left the EU and will enter a transitionary period.
As ever with something as complex as Brexit, the devil will be in the detail. Whilst the population at large was uninformedly frustrated by the dither, delay and incredible amount of political bandwidth that the post-Referendum period demanded, no simple action can end or even deny the continued reverberations of this momentous decision. Indeed, the difficulty of agreeing a withdrawal could pale in significance when it comes to the far harder decision of agreeing what the new UK relationship with the EU will be going forward.
Brexit may be ‘done’ but it is the equivalent of a political bomb that will have gone off but continues to send shockwaves through the UK’s political and economic way of life. The latter in particular will be exposed to a myriad of effects some predictable, some less so. As the country enters the transition and starts frantic negotiation towards a free trade deal before the end of the year the real headlines won’t be about whether the country has regained its sovereignty or not, but rather the specifics of a new fishery agreement, the finer details of documentation and customs procedure, the sub-clause within a sub-clause of an obscure agreement on standards.
Whilst these may be of interest to economic anoraks the public at large are unlikely to be gripped, yet the decisions will have real world consequences as to what the economy of the UK will look like in future. This will mean which businesses will be forced under, which will thrive, as well as where people will target inward and external investment. Huge questions which will of course connect to the politics and global identity of Britain at large but that may not receive the same level of analysis as the events of 2019.
The scrutiny and potential transparency of attention on Brexit may be further hampered by the supposed decision from inside the heart of the new government to ban Ministers from referring to the word itself. The logic behind this is simple; a mandate to ‘get Brexit done’ can be conceptualised as the act of leaving rather than anything that follows after. Presumably Ministers will want to accentuate the positives and play down the negatives but avoiding it entirely seems like an almost Orwellian feat of propaganda and narrative control.
Indeed, it presumes that a fatigued British population will not read Brexit news nor follow it on the television and even if people were inclined to show interest, they probably wouldn’t understand what was going on within trade negotiations nor whether they were going well or badly. The act of simply pretending that Brexit is not a process but rather a simple event that can happen and be forgotten about, is aided by the absence of the political opposition. The chaos of December’s defeat, the scale of the loss and the prospect of a record breaking 5th defeat at the next election to come. The new leader of Britain’s Labour Party will only be decided by the start of April, clearing the way for the new government to set the tone and priorities for the country ahead.
This means that the consequences of Brexit will be increasingly secondary in the effect, harder to track, understand or attribute. The global economic slowdown, US trade wars with China or Canada and actual wars in the Middle East, all could impact on the UK economy in ways exacerbated by Brexit and the macro question as to what the country’s relationship with the world’s largest trade bloc with eventually be.
Hovering at the margins of this now unspeakable process, if that is what it becomes, is the remaining threat of ‘no deal’ that could still occur if negotiations don’t bear fruit before the end of the year. This hard deadline is supposed to focus minds, however if ‘no deal’ does occur then a rapid breakdown in supply chains resulting in food shortages, stockpiling and transport chaos at the UK’s borders will be a clear and present fallout from Brexit regardless of whether the government choose to acknowledge it.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.