Covid-19: UK Withdrawal from the EU Single Market Must Be Postponed to 2023 584

The enormous economic impact of the reaction to Covid-19 is plain for all to see. The effect on economies – which had barely recovered to 2008 levels after the great Banker Theft crisis – is enormous. You cannot just close down businesses and expect them all to restart three months later. Plus the hit to personal finances is going to result in a huge and lasting reduction in consumer demand, exaggerated by what I predict will be a much higher propensity to save against future disaster. Even optimistic economists are expecting a 15% drop in GDP and slow recovery. At recent levels it is going to take some seven years of compound economic growth to recover that.

I always argued that England and Wales should leave the EU as had been democratically decided by the electorate, and an Independent Scotland should not as similarly decided. My personal enthusiasm for the EU’s political institutions disappeared after their enthusiastic backing for the repression in Catalonia. But I also always believed, and still believed, that a hard Brexit was madness and that a Norway or Switzerland style relationship made sense – which approximates fairly well to the position the UK currently is in until the transition period ends at the turn of the year.

To leave the EU customs union and single market will be a massive short term economic dislocation. Even to consider doing this on top of the economic crisis caused by the reaction to Covid-19 ought to be unthinkable and I suspect that it is. There is no way that the UK can crash out of the single market in January 2021 in these circumstances, and I suspect that even this Westminster government may be forced to admit that soon.

I might add that the government measures to alleviate the economic impact of covid-19 in the UK are going to run aground in a fog of inertia, largely as the result of the UK having crippled its own bureaucratic machine though a decade of extreme cuts to staffing and capabilities. I myself tried to organise a COVID business interruption loan for the music festivals, and after many hours of effort was finally told by Natwest Bank that the regulations state that:

1) If the bank would normally grant the loan on commercial terms, it must do so without the government COVID guarantee
2) The bank may not grant the loan unless it would normally do so on commercial terms

Which means it is impossible to get the government’s purported loan guarantee. I assumed this was just Natwest being obstructive, but then I discovered this is precisely what the government scheme says.

Not so much Covid 19 as Covid 22. The actual effect in practice will be that the only people able to access the billions in government guaranteed funds for business interruption will be very wealthy Tory businessmen who don’t actually need the money. The sad thing is, that is not in the least surprising.

One thing of which we can be certain is that the depression will be used by the Tories to bring in another decade of austerity, of further abandonment of the economic potential of the state actor, and of attacks on the living standards of the poorest in society. It is important now to start working on a counter-plan of economic planning and investment to build a fairer and greener economy, with much more localism and resilience, once the current crisis has passed. Here in Scotland, that can show the alternative path which Independence can bring; in the rest of the UK it can bring a new focus for societal resistance to the Tories. Empathy, solidarity, localism and resilience are all virtues that are not valued by neo-liberalism. That society is rediscovering them could yet open the way to a brighter future.


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584 thoughts on “Covid-19: UK Withdrawal from the EU Single Market Must Be Postponed to 2023

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  • James Charles

    “Can you relapse after recovering from the virus?
    That doesn’t happen with these respiratory viruses. The symptoms that drag on are your body’s response to the virus, but the virus is gone after a few days. I take great umbrage at the lengths of time you are meant to be infectious for because it is just not true. Nine days is nonsense. You don’t excrete a live virus that long.”
    Cambridge virologist explains what we know and don’t know about Covid 19

  • Paul Barbara

    ‘Remember the Maine’; remember ‘Saddam’s WDM’; remember the ‘Kuwaiti Incubator Babies’: remember the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Lie’; remember, governments and politicians LIE, it is their forte. And always ask: ?Cui bono?

  • DunGroanin

    Fortunately for us ( the humans) there are probably more scientists and res archers alive today than the whole of history put together (no proof).

    The science on this is fast and full genome sequencing equally so – and getting quicker by the day!

    In such an environment the only way of covering-up the truth is by a full spectrum narrative construct and quick management of the countering truths.

    The Japanese scientists cannot be as easily dismissed as other non-western ones.

    If they are proving that the multiple strains around the world are evolutions of a single source, from a single place then identifying that zero point becomes easy by tracing it.
    Like following foot prints ! Easy when you know which ones you are looking for.
    It becomes inevitable. It is inevitable. The footprint is identified. The hunt is afoot. The culprit is in sight …

  • Toby

    Very sound and well-judged comment, based on some rather obvious facts.

    Chances of this regime actually listening to arguments like this? Sadly, slim to nil.

  • SA

    I am not quite sure it is that amusing really, especially if it is supposed to be aimed at children. Factually also Covid-19 rarely kills children. Disgusting.

  • Revd Joe Haward

    My take on this current situation:

    Do not be quick to give up your civil liberties. Once gone the democratic life we once enjoyed will vanish.

    Undoubtedly these are strange and unusual times, but such times are not reason to remove democratic freedom. The draconian measures this government are deploying will have a long-lasting and detrimental impact upon our freedom, long after this epidemic has gone.

    Of course we must protect the vulnerable, but that is something we have always needed to do. Care for the most vulnerable has been significantly stripped away from our society to greater degrees year after year under Thatcherite neoliberal politics. Austerity has killed thousands and thousands of vulnerable people, and this epidemic brings to light that reality: an underfunded NHS, (purposeful) incompetency from the highest offices, and cruel polity that leave the most vulnerable in poverty or death. The government could have ordered thousands more ventilators from other parts of the world but chose not to: now we will be critically short. The government refused to accept the reality of events for frontline NHS staff leaving them “as lambs to slaughter” without vital PPE and tests for themselves for the virus.

    National identity and so called “sovereignty” has been the driving force of political discussion and cultural understanding for many years now.

    The decimation of the NHS, education, and public services, the rise in poverty and pain for the most vulnerable has been an ideological game played by the Tories. The rise in racism and xenophobia has risen, and will rise further now. The privatising death march of the NHS will surely be completed under this government.

    This government, along with the powerful people, corporations and media outlets, have shaped the national conversation around national identity, and in doing so created the narrative that immigration and “outside” control was the biggest threat to the UK; “eliminate the threat and reclaim our country” has been the mantra.

    This is a populist right government, and the trend globally is politically Right. Look at Europe, America, Australia, Brazil. Again, these governments have been voted in by the people on the back of the narrative of national identity and reclaiming national pride.

    Reclaiming national pride. We’ve heard that before.

    The oligarchs, rich and powerful have duped the common working person around this narrative. In the general election we saw the working class vote to destroy themselves around the idea of national identity and “democracy”. This government will strip away your rights. History has shown the trend.

    When Louis Bonaparte took power in France in December 1851, dissolving parliament, Marx summed up the act in these words,

    “Finally, the scum of bourgeois society forms the holy phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinski [a character from Heine’s poem “The Two Knights,” a dissolute aristocrat] installs himself in the Tuileries [palace] as the “savior of society.””

    Mussolini in the early 1920’s came to power and established an authoritarian, facist government, removing democracy, murdering those on the Left, and crushing the socialist movement in Italy. Many people in Italy welcomed his authority as they were tired of strikes, and the political and economic turmoil the country was in: for many, Mussolini restored the national pride of Italy again.

    During the 1930’s in Spain, parliament was dissolved by the ruling socialist government due to growing economic and political instability. That in turn led to further breakdown, the collapse of the Leftist government, and the rise and rule of the facist, authoritarian, military led government of Franco.

    In March 1933 Hitler managed to get the “enabling act” passed by the Reichstag, which gave virtually unlimited power to himself, effectively removing parliamentary democracy. Hitler had also managed to curtail freedom of the press and the freedom to assemble, ensuring that his message was not subverted on the ground amongst the common person. On October 14, 1933, Germany left the League of Nations, a move applauded by the majority of German people. Hitler broke the Treaty of Versailles and built his army in secret. He reintroduced conscription on March 16, 1935, and pumped huge amounts of money into the military service. Hitler wanted to establish the pride of Germany and the German Volk. World War I had brought a sense of great shame to Germany as a nation, and there were many still emotionally wounded from the war itself and the tight restrictions placed upon Germany as a result. Germany was struggling through shame, economic devastation, and international restrictions. Hitler appealed to a national identity—to restore pride to the nation, a pride that, according to Hitler and Nazi ideology, had been threatened by Communists, Jews, and the powers at Versailles. With Hitler’s rise to power Germany felt a sense of pride and hope again, the promise to restore the nation to its former glory.

    History is important, for whilst it may not repeat, it certainly rhymes. Britain is in a strange and important time, and it seems to me that in Boris Johnson there is a person who is potentially authoritarian in his political, ideological belief and practise.

    Brexit become the lens through which all political debate and activity is now filtered through in the UK, and national identity seems to be at the forefront of belief amongst many people.

    The EU has become the symbol of capitalist, elitist, class. And yet in Johnson, Gove, Farage, Rees-Mogg etc we also have a capitalist, elitist class. The recent events in Brazil where the former President “Lula” has been framed and jailed highlights how far the elites will go to maintain their power: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva brought economic stability, raised the condition of the poor, and enabled millions to come out of poverty. His false imprisonment meant he was unable to stand again, paving the way for the far-right government Brazil now has. This was crafted by Brazilian elites. The capitalist elites will do anything to remove threats to their position.

    National identity is front and centre in many parts of the world now, including the UK, but it is being orchestrated by the elites. What we need to remember is that for the last 40 years the UK has been subjected to a political ideology that has ensured class divide continues to rise, and that the wealthiest maintain and increase their wealth, influence, and power. The gap between rich and poor is rising, and class divide increases over and over. And the elites orchestrate, welcome, and celebrate it. Not only that, but the public are fed “chaos and kittens”: in other words, use media to make people sick of the news and then distract them through shopping and entertaining nonsense that stops people thinking, enquiring, or researching. Notice how our education system does not want our children to think for themselves but to simply retain “information” that they have to regurgitate in exams. Quash critical thinking in the common person, politically exasperate everyone, and create an atmosphere of total fear, and the elites can do what they want without any real challenge.

    Boris Johnson and this government are bad news for democratic rights, and we potentially have a very serious problem that people willingly supported in the general election because they are tired of the economic and political challenges, wanting to “reclaim” so-called national identity and pride. With this virus we have the perfect storm of events that enables authoritarian rule to emerge.

    • michael norton

      Indeed Joe,
      my current beef is with council shutting parks.
      This is a knee jerk reaction to covid-19, which does not fit with
      “Look after your physical health with a cycle ride or walk, once a day, also look after your mental health”

      If you live in a town but you have a nearby recreation ground, how very upsetting to find your local council have locked, apparently because they have your best interests at the front of their tiny minds.

      • michael norton

        The cure is likely to be much worse than the disease, covid-19.

        Loss of freedom, loss of employment and income, loss of self worth, all decisions taken away from you.
        No longer is your input into life needed.
        Cancer care put on lock down, and false hips surgery curtailed.
        Over 70’s told not to leave your house for a further 1/4 year, don’t bother asking us, we will let you know if anything changes.
        This really is absolute power by the Elite.

        What sort of life are we to have.

        • Marmite

          Yep, and I find it absolutely revolting that NHS management is gagging employees from speaking out. The bosses need to be roundly fired and sued for their bullying and neglect of life. The NHS needs rescuing from the scum at the top.

        • Revd Joe Haward

          “The cure is likely to be much worse than the disease.” Absolutely Michael.

          Have you heard what happened in Hungary on Monday? The destruction of democracy as a result of government response to the virus. I’m not sure how it will play out here, but it doesn’t look good for democratic freedoms.

  • michael norton

    Edinburgh’s five cultural festivals will not take place in August due to concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Organisers said the decision affected the Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

    The festivals attract audiences of about 4.4 million people to the city each summer.

    I wonder if Craig will cancel his own concert?

  • michael norton

    It is becoming quite obvious that various member states of the European Union are upset with the E.U. Ruling Elite in their abysmal non-handling of the Pandemic.
    It is also the case that many of the masses are suffering and their E.U. is useless.
    Mauro Ferrari had only become president of the European Research Council (ERC) on January 1, but EU Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said that “Professor Ferrari resigned,” effective immediately.

    In a statement given to the Financial Times, Professor Ferrari — described as a pioneer in nanomedicine — said he had “been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic. He complained about running into institutional and political obstacles as he sought to swiftly set up a scientific programme to combat the virus.

    “I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,” he wrote. “I have lost faith in the system itself.”

    “Sixteen hours in a virtual meeting and virtually nothing was achieved,” said one Spanish diplomat, who spoke of an exhausting EU video conference all too reminiscent of the days of the Greek financial crisis.

    This time though, in the words of a Danish colleague, “it appears to be a financial crisis, on steroids”.

    A deep, deep recession is looming across the EU as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Coronavirus: E.U. could fail over outbreak, warns Italy’s Giuseppe Conte

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