If it was not for the drama in Downing Street, Brexit would be dominating the news right now. Next week is regarded as a crucial week for the negotiations. If they don’t make progress, then the UK leaving without a trade deal will become the most likely outcome. The geopolitical consequences of this failure would dwarf the economic ones, I say in the Times today.
No deal would be acrimonious. The EU would probably take a hard-line approach to border checks to try to force Britain back to the table. Boris Johnson would, as the Internal Market Bill proposes, override parts of the withdrawal agreement that he himself signed. The EU would take legal action.
It is impossible to believe that these tensions wouldn’t bleed across into other issues such as foreign policy and defence cooperation. The arguments that would follow a no-deal Brexit could poison UK-EU relations for years – undermining the Western alliance.
Both sides should pause for a moment and reflect on the strategic consequences, not just the economic ones, of the failure to reach a deal. Merkel has, rightly, long worried more about the danger of losing Britain as an ally than the ability to sell us tariff-free Volkswagens. I understand that in Biden’s circle the concern about a no deal is not just because of the Irish border issue, but because of what it would do to the broader unity of the West.
This country and the EU can either be close strategic partners with a trade deal or bad-tempered neighbours arguing about who is to blame for the failure to reach an agreement. It is time for both sides to see the big picture and reach for a deal.