Food, fuel and medicine shortages resulting in rising prices and potentially panicked buying. Clogged ports and delayed internal and international transportation. Economic dislocation and job losses. The imposition of a hard border between nations.
Those and other dire outcomes aren’t meant to describe a national crisis like the Blitz in World War II, or even a natural disaster, but rather the unnatural impact of a “no-deal” Brexit, according to a leaked memo published by the Sunday Times of London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to dispatch a top Tory lawmaker, Michael Gove, to dismiss the report as “old” and as representing “worst-case scenarios.” But that defense rang hollow after a senior government official told the newspaper that the memo didn’t reflect the worst possible outcome but rather a “most realistic assessment” of what the public faces with no deal. And the British public, and indeed the world, deserve the truth. It’s insulting that the memo required a “need to know” security clearance.
Everyone needs to know what can and indeed most likely would happen if a revised deal isn’t struck, or if Great Britain once again seeks to delay Brexit past its fitting Oct. 31 deadline — Halloween.
A deal to avoid crashing out is unlikely. Sure, Johnson will appeal to peers in Germany and France in advance of this weekend’s G-7 Summit. But neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor French President Emmanuel Macron, or any other European leader is likely to give him a better deal than his predecessor Theresa May.
And while it would be wise to give British voters a chance to officially reconsider and revote on the issue — societies should be allowed to reverse a mistake, after all — Johnson is unwavering. In fact, Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay tweeted on Sunday that he had signed the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act. “This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back,” Barclay said in a statement.
The opposition Labour Party seems to believe differently, and may try to topple the government in September in order to avoid a U.K. crash out of the European Union. Already many in Parliament are calling on Johnson to reconvene following a summer break, a call that the prime minister has rejected. Johnson has aligned himself with President Donald Trump, who called himself “Mr. Brexit” during his campaign. Each has expressed a desire to ink a bilateral free-trade agreement, in part to soften Brexit’s self-inflicted blow. But free-trade agreements, even with “fast-track” legislative status, can take years to negotiate and approve.
While such pacts can in fact be beneficial, a bilateral deal would need to be put in context of reconsidering the much more significant U.S.-E.U. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement proposed by former President Barack Obama but scrapped by Trump. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rightly rejected Congress approving any agreement if Brexit eroded the Good Friday agreement that helped end the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
The world economy, and geopolitics, face many headwinds. Brexit only adds to the uncertainty, and the least that Johnson should do is to reconsider the chaos that his own government predicts.