Some say a WTO Brexit would be less painful in the wake of Covid-19 destruction. This argument “makes no sense,” says a former judge of the European Court of Justiceby Franklin Dehousse / June 9, 2020 / Leave a comment
Four years ago, the British people voted in a referendum to get out of the European Union. For all parties involved, it was important to implement that decision. After the conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement in 2019, a new negotiation was opened on a new EU/UK relationship, to be concluded (and approved) before the end of 2020 unless extended. Progress was slow before; now there is a growing feeling on the EU side that the UK government is not making the required efforts and is in fact pursuing a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, many things have changed since 2016, generally not in a positive direction for an isolated UK. Trump has become US president, and this has now made the US enormously unstable internally and externally. It is far from sure that the 2020 election will bring a stabilisation. China has become more aggressive on the world stage, and uses trade threats more regularly. It is also now overtly operating a reinforced dictatorship model. Other big countries (Russia and Brazil, for example) provoke other troubles. Some peddle fake news in western countries. They are far from enthusiastic about rule-based cooperation. These are no partners with which to establish strong and stable political and trade relationships. Additionally, experience has now revealed that concluding new trade deals, especially ambitious ones, requires a lot of time and energy. All this greatly increases the need to preserve strong political cooperation with the EU.
Apart from this, the world trade system itself is crumbling. The Doha Round aiming to reform the WTO framework was a failure. The WTO dispute settlement system is in huge crisis. Big powers do not care much about WTO rules anymore. The coronavirus pandemic has also revealed the danger of relying too much on complex, distant and sometimes unreliable supply chains, for example in medical or food products. It has become rather difficult in such a context to plead for a Brexit exclusively based on WTO rules. This greatly increases the need to keep a strong trade connection with the EU.
Additionally, the world now has entered a deep recession (that could turn into a depression in case of coronavirus resurgence—though we shall not know that until the…