Author Will Podmore
Has Covid-19 infected the Brexit process? For the diehard Remainers, it has become the excuse they have been looking for. The government should extend the Brexit deadline “if necessary”, says Keir Starmer – already revealing himself as a master of the snide insinuation – clearly hinting that in his opinion it will be necessary.
And like a bad penny, up turns Gina Miller again to say she “now believes Britain’s exit from the EU must be delayed”, according to the Daily Mail.
The infection has spread to Tory ranks, too, with Dominic Raab’s former chief of staff, Nick de Bois – described in the Times as a “leading Brexiteer” even though hardly anyone has heard of him – saying the public would find it “incomprehensible”.
Actually, what would be incomprehensible would be for the government to give in to the siren song that Covid-19 has made Brexit impossible. On the contrary, it has made it even more urgent – and made any delay potentially even more damaging.
First consider that any delay would mean extending the transition period, under which Britain is subject to all EU rules but has no role in shaping them. Under which Britain is subject to all rulings of the European Court of Justice but has no judges sitting on its bench. Delay means extending this period of vassalage.
The impact of that would be, literally, incalculable. Who knows what directives and regulations will spew forth from the European Commission as it struggles to restore the very concept of a European Union? As it struggles to make itself relevant to anyone after revealing itself as impotent to stop the suspension of free movement, of Schengen?
Think what further delay would mean to the fishing industry, already hanging on for dear life while EU ships plunder Britain’s fishing stocks and EU regulations make it increasingly impossible for smaller ships to fish economically. It would be a death sentence for British fishing.
Further delay would mean being forced to send further billions off to Brussels, money needed here to rebuild Britain. Worse, Britain is increasingly likely to be saddled with its “share” of the EU debt that has piled up, on top of the debt the government has already incurred.
And how long for? Covid-19, we are being constantly told, is likely to come back again in the autumn. Once you start a delay, when do you stop? (Never, you can hear the diehard Remainers saying to themselves.)
All this at a time when Britain is seeking to conclude trade agreements with countries from Australia to the US – none of which will be happy to conclude an agreement if they don’t even know when it will start.
While Britain will still be a trading nation, attention is already turning to concepts of security. Energy security have been discussed for a while. To this we should now add health security.
What do we need to produce here, or be able to produce rapidly, to cope with expected medical emergencies? Make your own list: gowns, face masks, rubber gloves, ventilators, vaccines, antibiotics.
What do we need to do to ensure food security? If farmers can charter planes (half full at most to ensure social distancing) to import Romanians to pick crops, why can’t they afford to pay proper wages to British workers?
Who do we need to train here? When will we end the reliance on imported medical staff?
The final break with the EU will also leave Britain free to restructure the economy to make it more able to cope with future epidemics. State aid will be necessary to shift the economy away from its dependence on long supply chains. The last thing Britain needs is to have to go begging to Brussels over every move involving state aid.
What is clear from all the chatter about delay is that the enemies of Brexit have not given up. They will use anything, even the tragedy of Covid-19, to try to overturn the will of the British people.
The forces for Brexit cannot afford to hunker down and wait for the Covid-19 crisis to blow over. We must demand, loudly, no delay. Not another day under the EU thumb.