There is only one deal which can be called an actual deal. It’s the one being negotiated intensively this week with Michel Barnier and David Frost, the negotiators for the European Union (EU) and the UK respectively. It’s probably fair to say that both of these actors want the deal, although until recently the mandate given to Frost was not at all clear.
According to a graph from Best for Britain, over 60 per cent of the British people want this deal and believe not having a deal would be ‘a bad thing’.
Most Tory MPs say they want ‘a’ deal (although this could mean a ‘bare bones’ deal which is not really a deal) and almost all opposition politicians at Westminster want the deal being negotiated. Northern Ireland wants and needs the deal. Scotland wants the deal. Biden and the US democrats want the deal. The EU wants the deal, with President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, becoming more involved now.
Frost has said that a deal is eminently possible. Barnier and the EU want the deal. So, what would prevent the deal? At the moment only Johnson is holding it back. Covid-19 could be a reason for delay but not a reason to stop the deal, only an excuse.
Johnson may want the deal but has many forces pulling him in different directions. This ended up with him giving a speech recently on how an ‘Australian type arrangement’ would be a ‘good thing’. Yet Australia does not have a free trade agreement with the EU and is situated on the other side of the world. He also said talks were over but, quite clearly, they are not. A power grab might be easier for him without a deal but probably only if Trump remained in power.
A recent Independent article reports that a survey shows the public will blame Johnson, not the EU or negotiators if talks collapse.
So, who doesn’t want a good Brexit deal?
It’s safe to say that Trump, Putin and Farage do not want the EU deal, perhaps for slightly different reasons. Trump and many US businesses are keen for a UK-US trade deal which would allow an influx to the UK of low standard foods and perhaps a chance to buy into the NHS. Trump and Farage are close politically and allegedly Russian-backed. Russian oligarchs might see the UK as being an even more favourable place for money-laundering post Brexit. And Putin sees Brexit as being a way of diminishing the EU’s power and regaining influence in former communist eastern Europe.
Some right-wing politicians see a no deal Brexit as a way of reducing human rights so companies can prosper from lower standards. Hedge funds could also benefit. The so-called ‘European Research Group’ (ERG) have members who have backed a ‘no deal’. John Redwood (‘the public wants no deal’) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (no deal would boost the economy) might still be on that list.
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And what about the prime minister’s advisor, Dominic Cummings who masterminded Vote Leave, working with various colleagues from Tufton Street? According to Bloomberg, he and many advisors recently appointed into No 10 are working to scupper the deal.
And, yes, a minority of the public still believe the propaganda they were fed on social media and in certain daily newspapers with owners who have vested interests.
What would a no deal Brexit mean?
However, it is reasonable to say that very few if any of the above are working for the good of the United Kingdom or its citizens.
Even with a free trade deal there will be problems in physical trading with the EU. However, without a deal it will be far worse for business, involving tariffs and hindering just-in-time manufacturing even more. Kent will also suffer with lorry parks as outlined in much of the media.
Some reports, including a recently published one from KPMG, say the East Midlands will be particularly disadvantaged.
The Good Friday Agreement could be put at risk and there will be conflict between a North Sea border and an Irish land border with the EU. Scotland would push even harder for independence.
Security would be put at risk when there is no longer exchange of data between the UK and the EU – for example working with Europol.
The economic impact would hit most of the areas not currently being hit by Covid-19.
In brief, “a no deal outcome will have repercussions not just on our economy, but on our politics, our security, and the UK’s own Union”, according to the UK in a changing Europe.
So what will happen now?
The legal text being drawn up for the deal must be finalised within the next week or two.
A solution must be found for those areas not yet agreed upon (fishing and a ‘level playing field’ in particular) or they must be ‘fudged’ within the deal for now.
Ratification (signed agreement by all parties) will then need to take place quickly in order that everything can be put in place by the end of the year (although an extension called a ‘ratification period’ could be agreed upon).
Or, there could be a no deal Brexit (‘bare bones’ or Australia style), possibly triggering legal action by the EU against the UK over failure to abide by the Withdrawal Agreement.
The outcome of the US presidential election on Tuesday is likely to focus minds. A Trump win could favour a ‘no deal’ whilst a Biden win would certainly favour the Barnier/Frost deal.