The words “No Deal” seem to be leading every news bulletin that I have seen in the past week and a half. Obviously that phrase is the concept that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a formally agreed withdrawal agreement. But what does No Deal actually mean? I just don’t know and that’s scary.
Boris Johnson, the most synonymous face with Vote Leave and later No Deal, is now the Prime Minister of this country, and leading the campaign that Brexit happens on the 31st October with or without a deal. This finality of this statement at first appears to give certainty – this will happen and we as a nation will prepare for it. However, a combination of parliament arithmetic, trade deals and the economy means that the opposite is true. Every step creates more uncertainty. For a nation tired of talking about the same political issue, it’s only going to get tougher to make progress.
Before we address the cost of No Deal, it’s important to discuss how it could be prevented and could it actually be allowed to happen? It is believed that there is no parliamentary majority for No Deal (or for any other resolution for Brexit, and definitely not for the Brexit Deal we have been offered, but that is a different issue), which means the only way to achieve a No Deal Brexit is for Johnson to bypass parliament and effectively make his own decision. The reaction to this is hardly likely to be universally positive; The Speaker of the House John Bercow has already stated his desire to fight to keep parliament running and open, and if successful this makes No Deal virtually impossible, and we are back into the familiar Brexit deadlock.
Those wanting to stop Brexit altogether have been forming their own plans to attempt to do this and end this issue via the opposite of No Deal – No Brexit. However, they can’t agree either. Jeremy Corbyn made the move this week to suggest he should be made Interim Prime Minister. It became clear quickly that it lacked sufficient support and he’d inherit the same problems. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson suggested that respected parliamentarians Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman should lead a national unity government and reduce the division blocking a solution either way. That lacked enough support too.
This puts us in the precarious position that No Deal seems the most likely outcome, even if parliament is forcibly shut down to achieve it. Strange times. If No Deal occurs, the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted borrowing could be up to £60 billion and that was just last month’s forecast. It’s a big increase in national debt.
Local council provisional planning for No Deal that were stepped up this week has some stating that schools and care homes would need to stockpile “non-perishable foodstuffs,” and other go as far to suggest that forms of rationing would be needed. So food shortages are supposedly an expected consequence of No Deal – can we call something that causes food shortages a positive thing? I personally can’t.
But it’s not only food, a leaked document from the government about No Deal Brexit entitled Operation Yellowhammer suggested that medicine and fuel could also be at a premium. Instead of trying to avert these fears, Boris Johnson has stated that these are just “bumps in the road.” Ironically we might not have the fuel to go on that road. Medicine is arguably the most worrying when lives could be at stake both here and in the EU if the medicine cannot be delivered to the right place when it is needed.
What will happen if it isn’t a No Deal Brexit? I don’t know. What will happen if there is a No Deal Brexit? I don’t know. Brexit is still symbolised by uncertainty and that is going to persist for at least the next few months. I know that shortages are bad, and I’d like to hope there is some sort of deal if Brexit does indeed happen, even if it’s mini deals under a No Deal banner. However as to how bad the impact will be and what will happen? I still don’t know.