We continue to live life governed by the pause button. The government is due to announce the next stage in its coronavirus plan this week, and it is likely that there will be some change in our situation. We have published three articles on Covid-19 this week and are hopeful that the lockdown can (and should) end soon.
Despite our strange state of limbo, Brexit negotiations are progressing. Michael Gove announced this week that the chances of striking a deal with the EU are at least 2-1. There will be no need for an extension, he claims, as Britain is seeking a deal based on a standard template, which should be in the interests of both Britain and the EU. He also discussed the government’s objections to the EU setting up a permanent customs office in Belfast to police the implementation of the withdrawal agreement: “Of course it is the case that the EU has the right to monitor the operation of what UK officials are doing, but there is no need for there to be a mini embassy in Belfast.”
It is good to see that UK negotiators are refusing to be pushed around. Instead they continue to state, clearly and calmly, that the UK simply wants a deal “based of precedent which respects the sovereignty of both sides”. By contrast, the EU’s demands for a ‘level playing field’ would create a novel form of dependency which should be avoided.
In some other welcome good news, Keir Starmer’s first few weeks as leader of the opposition suggest an admirable determination to move beyond the partisan divisions of Brexit. While continuing his efforts to hold the government to account on questions such as PPE provision, Starmer has also been promoting a message of unity in these difficult times.
In a marked changed from the rhetoric of the Corbyn era, Starmer spoke in support of patriotism in a virtual meeting with residents of Bury. In the current crisis, the value the bond of patriotism is becoming clearer than ever. Recognising the value of such bonds – which offer something more than material comforts – should be one of the many benefits of Brexit. Lockdown has for some been a time of particular hardship; others have enjoyed relative comfort. But even the most comfortable lockdown is not without losses – of contact with our family, friends and communities. As Britain starts to plan for a return to business, we can hope that it will be accompanied by renewed political respect for the power of local and national community.
On the website this week
Back to work soon? And back to Brexit? By Graham Gudgin
Cambridge economist and BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin suggests that the improvement in the Covid-19 pandemic is taking place rapidly and we can be optimistic about the end of the pandemic, at least outside care homes. This suggests that the Government can and should quickly end the pandemic and get people back to work.
“It seems logical that at least a partial exit from the lockdown can begin much earlier than June and perhaps as early as next week.”
Coronavirus in the UK: total confusion in the statistics, by Briefings for Britain
One of the consequences of the multiple datasets is that it becomes extremely difficult to give answer to one of the most pressing public issues relating to coronavirus; namely whether the epidemic has passed its peak. We delve into the complexity in an attempt to gain greater clarity.
“The government should now give priority to presenting the ONS figures as the official story of the epidemic, with [some] essential enhancements.”
Professor of French History John Keiger reminds us that Covid statistics are like complex machinery: if you don’t read the instructions you won’t operate them properly. This is why the claim by some media outlets that the UK now has the second-highest number of Covid deaths in Europe should be handled with caution.
“So when the media presents coronavirus death tolls, and especially when it makes international comparisons, it’s vital that you read the small print.”
Could Italy tear Europe apart? By Matthew Goodwin
Professor Matthew Goodwin, Professor of politics at the University of Kent and Senior Fellow at Chatham House, notes that Euroscepticism is running high as the EU abandons the Italy to its pandemic fate.
“When Italy eventually emerges from this crisis it will not only be a poorer country but will also be a more Eurosceptic one, too. And who knows where that will lead.”
It has become clear that Brussels’ concept of a ‘level playing field’ is intended to trap Britain into dependent status, having to accept EU legislation and jurisdiction on a range of key matters, which could include Employment law, Social policy, Taxation, and something nebulously called “Regulatory Policy”. As international trade expert Tony Lane explains, these are all aspects of internal policy, with no direct connexion with free trade.
“Taking the “level playing field” agenda as a whole… we can see how dangerously broad and elastic the concept can be.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook.
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge