With too many reports and articles about ‘that’ virus in the MSM this morning Brexit, understandably, has been put on the backburner if not taken off the cooker altogether. I’ll try and put the little puzzle pieces on the table to see if a picture emerges nevertheless.
First and foremost is of course the news that Nadine Dorries has tested positive (here, here, paywalled here and here) and, since the incubation period is symptomless, it’s guesswork whom she might have infected – from her hapless residents all the way up to employees in her department, fellow MPs in the HoC, especially those on the front bench, and of course the PM.
Obviously this will have repercussions – one of her ‘contacts’ is Mr Hancock himself, Minister of the Dept of Health – but others might include the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Rishi Sunak who is going to present his first Budget today. We’ll have to get through the next few months to find out if this Budget will be an exercise in futility, given the economic impact of the coronavirus on economies worldwide, but especially on those in the EU from where so many of our imports originate, food especially.
But how could this affect Brexit? The very first one off the Remain blocks was David Lammy MP with his advice to the PM:
“Mr Lammy said: “The government can’t negotiate the future of Britain’s trade with the EU in a few months during what could well become a global coronavirus pandemic. Boris Johnson needs to swallow his pride and put the national interest first. That means agreeing an extension with the EU.” (link)
Yay – only the mighty EU with those few coronavirus cases can help us, for the price of staying IN …! I’m sure M Barnier loves this advice even though he and his team are allegedly scrambling to finalise ‘legal documents’ because we’re doing it:
“EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has admitted the bloc is scrambling to put together a legal text in advance of next week’s crunch talks after it was revealed UK negotiators were ahead of the game. […] Speaking at the European Parliament after a meeting with MPs, Mr Barnier was questioned about the UK’s plans to present a draft treaty text. In a strong hint the EU would do likewise, he said: “It’s always useful, in this very short time, to work on legal text – on both sides. On both sides, on both sides.” (link)
Well, let’s hope that the coronavirus doesn’t affect M Barnier and his workers – there are 267 confirmed cases in Belgium so far, 382 in the Netherlands, 1,700+ in France and 1,500+ in Germany (link). As the case of Ms Dorries shows – ministers and health officials are not immune, even though they may believe they are, so why should the Brusselocrats be any different?
I don’t dare to speculate, but mightn’t it be useful if some of the Brexit legal eagles were to ponder if The Law is The Law and we’ll be Out on the last day of this year regardless of negotiations being cancelled because of the virus.
More importantly, will the various ministers, will their departments go ahead and take the advice of Dr Lee Rotherham who demands we start a bonfire of EU Red Tape? Here’s a summary:
“Dr Lee Rotherham, formerly director of Special Projects at Vote Leave, and a historian, has told the Prime Minister to throw EU rules on the “Brexit bonfire” to ensure the country can move on from leaving the bloc. Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Rotherham said: “Stepping back from the EU’s single regulatory market means that the country no longer needs to implement swathes of EU laws except where they specifically cover exported goods. Where existing laws had stress lines or fractures, these are no longer “out of scope” and can be changed or binned.” (link)
Meanwhile, in the run-up to that Budget today, Jeremy Warner (Remain) at the DT ponders the effect of the coming economic disruption on the Eurozone. He believes fondly that the Eurozone will survive, but writes:
“As if deliberately, Covid-19 has hit the eurozone just where it hurts most – Italy. Already crippled by the banking and sovereign debt crisis of 2010-12, and in the front line of today’s migrant crisis, Italy cruelly also finds itself the epicentre of Europe’s Covid-19 outbreak. The crisis measures Italy has been forced to adopt are likely to cause a considerable economic contraction, with serious consequences for the rest of Europe regardless of how the virus itself affects other countries. As it is, Britain, Germany and France will very probably soon be following Italy with comparable action. Harsh measures in China, where the outbreak started, seem to have checked the spread. Regrettable though it is, authoritarian action works. Italy has taken note, even if its own crackdown is for the moment, as is the Italian way, being widely flouted.” (paywalled link)
We’re not in the Eurozone but it doesn’t take an economic guru to predict that what happens to the Eurozone economies will have an effect on ours. Far more worrying is Warner’s following assessment:
“Even in China, where deference to the leader is still strong, there has been a backlash. Citizens have not taken kindly to the suggestion that they need “educating” into thanking president Xi for his success in fighting the virus. In Europe, mistrust of political leaders is the default sentiment. It may therefore be harder for them to check the disease. Nonetheless, China’s draconian methods have set a precedent, and are in effect now the gold standard for how to contain the disease. Similarly unconventional measures are needed to mitigate the harm to the wider economy. For Italy, with an economy barely recovered from the last crisis, these measures are going to be particularly important.” (paywalled link)
It sends shivers down my spine to read that a British journalist suggests Johnson take measures similar to those China took – to ‘mitigate harm to the wider economy’ rather than safeguarding our lives. The Times also observes that stricter measures will be needed, because
“a growing number of new UK infections cannot be traced back to foreign sources, suggesting that it is now being passed on within Britain too. The government itself acknowledges that it may need to introduce much tougher measures soon.” (link, paywalled)
For some time now I’ve been puzzled where all those asymptomatic coronavirus- infected Brits have picked up ‘that’ virus – no answer to be had.
This next quote however will surely be relished by all readers who have been following the policies introduced here because of ‘Climate’ hysterics:
“So far Boris Johnson has allowed his response to the crisis to be driven by expert advice from the government’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser. This advice in turn is being informed by a detailed model that draws heavily on insights from behavioural science as well as epidemiology and analysis of the likely impact of any decisions on the economy. But like all models, they are only as good as the underlying assumptions fed into them.” (link, paywalled)
Oh the irony! Does Greta know this? But still, something must be done even as the aim of Remain, to sabotage both Brexit and Johnson, has only gone underground:
“Ultimately the prime minister must decide where the balance is to be struck between the economic disruption of following Italy down the path of lockdowns and the human cost in terms of increased deaths arising from pressures on the health service.” (link, paywalled)
Just so. Whatever happens, it’ll be Johnson’s fault anyway. However, in the end it’ll come down to two aspects, both deeply worrying: will these measures be about ‘safeguarding the economy’ rather than people’s lives, and will these measures turn out to be totalitarian like those in China? Neither bodes well for our society, during and after this outbreak.
We’re certainly living ‘interesting times’ – but isn’t it ironic that the trigger for this old Chinese curse came from China! Meanwhile, regarding both Brexit and ‘that’ virus: keep well, use your common sense, and