The pandemic is being used as cover for a no-deal Brexit | Mujtaba Rahman
The Vote Leavers at the heart of government think the coronavirus crash will disguise the pain caused by a rupture with the EU
Most of us who have followed Brexit closely believed coronavirus would soften the government’s stance in trade talks with Europe. The economic shock triggered by the pandemic, and the fact Whitehall is so overwhelmed managing it, made it more likely the government would extend the transition period, due to expire at the end of this year, or strike a deal. It turns out that the opposite is true. Rather than encouraging a more flexible and pragmatic approach, Covid-19 has instead reinforced the case for no deal at the very top of government.
Perhaps the most important driver is the belief among ministers that the UK economy will be permanently reshaped by the crisis, as companies create new supply chains and reshore production to provide greater resilience in the future, not least in case of another pandemic. The government wants a free hand to facilitate this change, one that it believes would be constrained by the EU’s demand that the UK remain tied to its labour and environmental standards and state aid rules.