A no-deal Brexit will mark Boris Johnson as a false patriot who harmed his country – Scotsman comment

Today could be the day when the UK commits to one of the greatest acts of folly in its long history: a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson may be about to wilfully inflict more economic damage on the UK than the Covid outbreak (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson may be about to wilfully inflict more economic damage on the UK than the Covid outbreak (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson can try all he likes to spin this as an “Australia-style” relationship as opposed to a “Canada-style” one, as if these were two similar options, but the fiction he is attempting to create fools no one.

The most hardline Leave supporters may be pleased by the apparent direction of travel towards the infamous ‘cliff-edge’, having sounded repeated warnings about what they regard as a “betrayal” of Brexit – meaning anything remotely close to a pragmatic, sensible compromise that would have protected the UK economy from the worst effects of leaving its biggest market.

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However, it is the more moderate supporters of quitting the EU who have every right to feel betrayed, given the confident rhetoric expressed by the Leave campaign leaders both before and after the referendum about the chances of achieving a comprehensive trade deal.

In the week before the 2016 vote, Johnson insisted: “Of course EU countries will continue trading with us on a tariff-free basis – they would be damaging their own commercial interests if they didn’t. That’s why EU politicians would be banging down the door for a trade deal on Friday.”

In January this year, he was still “absolutely confident” about securing a “wonderful, zero-tariff, zero-quota, all-singing, all-dancing” free-trade agreement.

Other leading lights of Leave agreed. Current Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said before the referendum that the UK was “very well placed” to “cut a very good deal and it’s certainly not in the European’s interests to erect trade barriers”.

And in 2017, the then Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, declared: “The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.”

Whatever happens now – whether it is no-deal or a pale imitation of the deal that Theresa May had clearly hoped to achieve – all of these statements have proved to be wrong and characterised by an arrogance that may well have resulted in the failure of the negotiations.

Instead of adopting a friendly approach, the UK appears to have tried to railroad the EU into acting contrary to its best interests, despite the disparity in economic power between the two. The British tail was never going to wag the European dog.

Contrast this with the deferential treatment of Donald Trump – a pragmatic and sensible approach, given the desperate need for a US trade deal – and recent attempts to bend over backwards in a completely different direction in the hope of getting in Joe Biden’s good books.

If it is no-deal – and we hope all the talk suggesting that by Johnson and co is merely bluster – then everyone in the UK should prepare for hard times ahead.

The Covid outbreak has devastated the economy but, according to Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, the long-term effects of a no-deal Brexit will be larger than those of the virus.

A Prime Minister who knowingly and wilfully causes such damage to the country while waving a Union Jack is a false patriot who deserves to pay a heavy price when voters next cast judgement.

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