Michael St George’s selection of four of this past week’s Brexit-related headlines.
NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall
Brexit breakthrough: How Boris Johnson will force Brussels to agree brilliant trade deal – Daily Express, 12th April
Well, maybe. But Johnson is likely to be hors de combat for at least a month in convalescence after his attack of coronavirus. In his absence, his de facto stand-in Dominic Raab, albeit for understandable quasi-constitutional reasons, would probably be reluctant to adopt such a hard line with the Brussels negotiators, justified though it would be.
On the other hand, we’re only just approaching the peak of the coronavirus epidemic, so Johnson may well be back in the saddle by the time they resume in earnest with political involvement, although they wisely continue at negotiator level, despite cynical calls from Continuity-Remainers to call them off using Covid-19 as an excuse.
The UK has a winning hand: let’s not be bluffed out of playing it – CapX, 9th April
The authors correctly make the point that, in contrast to the long-trailed Remainer mantra that ‘the City of London needs to be in the EU’s regulatory framework in order to prosper’, the boot is now in effect on the other foot, exacerbated by the eurozone crisis and Germany’s refusal to mutualise EU debt, in defiance of the logic of the euro’s creation of which Germany was such an enthusiastic advocate.
With the Brexit-extension lobby currently vocal, it remains a mystery why this advantage is apparently being neither leveraged nor even publicised in response. That advantage would be maximised if the UK-EU talks were held in parallel with the UK-USA talks, but the latter have just officially been postponed indefinitely.
Clearly, the hiatus in leadership and diversion of Cabinet attention to Covid-19 is a factor in both being allowed to happen; but equally, one can’t discount the possibility of the malign influence of Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark ‘Huawei’ Sedwill. In a reprise of the worst aspects of Theresa May’s disastrous premiership, Britain possesses a good hand of cards, but is simply refusing to play them.
The coronavirus crisis could blow the EU apart – The Times (£), 9th April
The eurozone crisis, long simmering on the back burner, is on the verge of boiling over, as Germany resolutely refuses to countenance the fiscal transfers to financially weaker regions of the eurozone quasi-polity which the currency’s economic logic always demanded, but which political imperatives always precluded.
As Iain Martin observes, Germany in particular wants for itself all the national, competitive, advantages of the one-size-fits-all euro, but not the obligations inherent in a multi-state currency bloc to support its weaker members. With the precarious Southern Europe economies, especially Italy, likely to go over the edge from the horrendous direct costs and lost output caused by their own Covid-19 outbreaks, the already dysfunctional European banking system, overhung with debt, might not be far behind.
Britain will not escape the economic fallout from a eurozone collapse in any event, but the imminent prospect of one ought to put even farther beyond contemplation the idea of a Brexit extension which could see us on the hook for hundreds of billions in euro bank-bailouts.
Italy’s Conte threatens to derail EU summit over Coronabonds – Politico Europe
‘European solidarity’ has always seemed a combination of convenient myth for British Europhiles and comfort blanket for their Continental counterparts, but seldom has it seemed more incongruous. Notwithstanding the eurozone’s latest purported rescue package, the division between the bloc’s Germanic/Scandinavian north and Latin south on the subject of so-called coronabonds – with France as ever straddling the two – looks intractable.
With the attention of Brussels Eurocrats grabbed more and more by the developing crisis in, or even potential collapse of, the eurozone, the EU can ill afford the luxury of a lengthy, intransigence-driven negotiation with a Britain prepared to walk away.