Britain, we’re led to be believe, is heading for the worst catastrophe in its history. Officialdom is warning that a no-deal Brexit would mean trucks backed up for miles at Dover, chaos at airports, a special poverty fund to cope with the fallout and — horror! — a shortage of Guinness. So apparently the country that saw off Hitler, the Kaiser, Napoleon and the Spanish Armada is now paralysed with fear at the very thought of leaving the EU.
Here in Australia, this story just doesn’t fit with the Britain that we know. A disorderly Brexit would mean, at most, a few months of inconvenience. Perhaps some modest transition costs. But these difficulties would quickly pass. By far the more serious threat comes from Britain caving in and agreeing to a bad deal that imposes most of the burdens of EU membership but with few of the benefits. Or, almost as bad, a Brexit delay that would keep the UK as a tethered goat — while the EU shows how it will humiliate any country with the temerity to leave. For Britain to lose its nerve now would represent failure on an epic scale.
Theresa May was quite correct two years ago when she said that no deal was better than a bad deal. What she should have known, even then, was that a bad deal was all that Britain was ever going to get from an EU with a vested interest in ensuring that no country ever leaves. The error all along has been not explaining the terms on which Britain wanted to leave. And not preparing to implement those terms unilaterally, given the near certainty that no satisfactory deal would be negotiated in advance.
As a former prime minister of a country that has a perfectly satisfactory ‘no deal’ relationship with the EU, let me assure you: no deal would be no problem.