We were living in strange times before the Coronavirus struck; they are now surreal beyond the imaginings of an objective viewer from five years ago. Lots of people are politicising the crisis, you know, imagining that what’s happening demonstrates the folly of austerity, or shows us what life would have been like under a Corbyn government, or demonstrates that “inequality kills”. I am not trying to add my own addition to this trope here. What follows is not a Remainry rant that is an attempt to halt Brexit in disguise. It is just dealing with the new political reality we are living in.
A no deal Brexit at the end of 2020, or what amounts to it beyond the few things the Withdrawal Agreement covers, would have been a stupid idea even before the Coronavirus crisis – to do so now would be political suicide. While I know almost nothing about epidemiology, I do know a little bit about supply chains and Brexit. What we’ve learned over the last couple of weeks tells a lot about people’s inability to stay calm in the face of possible shortages and thus hoard on a massive scale. Almost no supermarket in Britain has any toilet roll, pasta and several other items that have been heavily hoarded over the past fortnight. And that is considering there is nothing actually wrong with the supply chains – at least, not yet – and there hasn’t been an imminent threat of any sort of lock down at all at least until the last day or so. Imagine the hoarding that would happen if the supply chains were heavily interrupted and – here’s the kicker – there was no way to know when they would become able to serve the demand again, if ever. Hoarding would be out of control if these last two weeks tell us anything, and I think they tell us a lot about what is likely behaviour if supply chains were disrupted even a little bit, never mind a lot.
Boris has all the cover he needs to extend the transition period. People will not only understand, no one other than Farage will complain and he will shut up quickly when people pile in on him, telling him to stop being so petty in the face of a national crisis. If Boris doesn’t take the opportunity, it will be one of the stupidest moves in British political history. In fact, I’d rank it even above Theresa May’s “no deal is better than a bad deal” speech and Cameron’s decision to get the EU referendum out of the way as quickly as possible so we as a nation could move onto other things.
I repeat, this is not a plea to stop Brexit. Yes, I’d like that, but that is not the issue. Boris must realise that having a crisis of this magnitude and then voluntarily foisting upon the nation another one less than 12 months later is lunacy. Take the opportunity, Boris. No one will think less of you. It is way, way, way less of a political risk than pushing ahead with what amounts to a no deal Brexit.
In a few weeks time, I have another book coming out. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge.
It’s out on April 9th, but you can pre-order here: