by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 18
March 2020
Idea
07:00

The no-deal nightmare scenario doesn’t seem so bad now

Coronavirus has made all those Doomsday Brexit predictions look rather silly
by Peter Franklin
Everything’s up for grabs, the future’s in our hands. Credit: Getty

Last year, British politics was consumed by Brexit. In 2020, it all seems rather quaint.

Remember the doomsday predictions of what a no-deal Brexit would mean? Not even the worst of them were as bad as what coronavirus is currently doing to us.

I expect that somebody somewhere on Twitter will have claimed that Brexit would turn us into Europe’s North Korea — a pariah state sealed-off from the rest of the world. But no serious Remainer went that far. Disruption to trade? Most certainly. Chaos at the channel ports? Quite possibly. Empty shelves in the supermarkets? Could happen. But total isolation? Well, that was just too implausible.

But imagine if we had been cut-off from the rest of the world — no one in, no one out. Again, it’s not that anyone actually wanted this, not even the battiest Brexiteer. But let’s suppose that’s what we’d done many weeks ago in response to the crisis in China. Let’s assume that all returning travellers had been tested and quarantined. The ports and airports would have shutdown — the Channel Tunnel too. The armed forces would have been deployed to our borders, enforcing their complete closure.

And so, in this scenario, the virus never gets established on British soil. People don’t get sick. The NHS isn’t overwhelmed. Obviously, international trade is massively disrupted. Supply chains are broken and the economy suffers. There are worries about food shortages. The Government shifts to wartime economic management and plans for rationing are drawn up.

Unthinkable stuff, but worse than what we’re going through now — and what we’re about to go through? I doubt it. An economy isolated from the world is in trouble; an economy isolated from itself all the more so.

Was a self-imposed blockade ever an option? If it were, it’s far too late to try it now (though across the world borders are being closed anyway).

And yet a question remains. At some point there will be other pandemics, perhaps a resurgence of this one. So should we be prepared for a policy of national self-isolation? Or, to put it another way, if it had been a practical option at the start of the year would you have taken it?

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
4 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alan Hardy
Alan Hardy
2 years ago

The government is still apparently intent on going on with Brexit by its already probably impossible timetable, despite the fact that the virus will go on until the end of that timetable and negotiations are being rendered impossible by the virus. We’ll never know what the impact of Brexit would have been without the virus, but it’s likely that Brexit just after the virus ends will be not pretty. We need a sea change in politics and how society (UK and world) operates after the virus ends, which includes international co-operation, action on climate change and species extinction, a complete re-modelling of economics toward social justice and environmentally positive endeavours, and greater democracy. Brexit won’t deliver those, and I doubt that most politicians, government and media will want to do so either. If we don’t, disaster beckons, through the next pandemic, environmental breakdown, economic crisis, social crisis.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hardy

And you think the EU will deliver those social, economic and environmental goods, do you? I don’t, because it hasn’t done so up to now – and I remember back to the UK’s entry into the EEC in 1973.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
2 years ago

Yes, I would.

Janice Mermikli
Janice Mermikli
2 years ago

Are the words “Yes, I would” controversial?