Monday 16 September 2019

Editorial: 'We will all pay a high price for a no-deal brexit'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Julian Simmonds/Pool via REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Julian Simmonds/Pool via REUTERS


Fine Gael's strategy for next month's Budget was straight forward enough. It was to be Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe's last before a general election this year or next.

Despite the inevitable annual HSE overspending there would still be enough in the larder to increase public spending and give taxpayers a break. In such a benign scenario the party's chances of returning to power - most likely with a different political configuration - would be enhanced.

But to misquote Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and politicians often go awry. The worsening Brexit chaos is causing growing nervousness in Government, which has no choice but to strengthen preparations for the increasing possibility of a UK no-deal exit.

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One political casualty could be the annual €5 pension rise we have become used to. It may be put on hold, which would upset older voters and Fine Gael's political calculations.

But a freeze on some social protection rates wouldn't be the only victim of a no-deal Brexit.

After years of double-digit growth the employers' body Ibec is forecasting growth of only 4pc this year and lower next year. "In the event of a no-deal Brexit, we expect significant impacts from continued depreciation in the value of sterling, cancelled investment, falling consumer confidence, rising costs and significant trade disruption," it warns.

This is yet another confirmation of the dire economic consequences that will inevitably be visited upon us if nobody backs down in the high-stakes game of chicken between the UK and the EU.

Boris Johnson, advised by his arch-Brexiteer svengali Dominic Cummings, clearly wants to call a general election soon. He is banking on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's deep unpopularity and enough Brexit voters to win and wipe out Nigel Farrage's new party which swept the boards in the European elections.

Ideally for Johnson, the election would be held before the British public felt the full force of the economic storm that would follow a no-deal Brexit.

As if anyone needed reminding, the leaking of the official 'Operation Yellowhammer' report yesterday spelled out the consequences which include disruption at channel ports for months; interruption of fuel supplies; price rises; less fresh food; severe delays in medical supplies; and a hard Border in Ireland, all of which is likely to lead to protests and "direct action".

UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove described the report, compiled by Britain's Cabinet Office, as exaggerated and said it painted a worst case scenario. But a former head of the UK civil service, Lord Kerslake, described it as "credible".

It has alarmed many UK politicians who, in theory, could get together to stop a no-deal exit. The coming few months will show how many MPs are real politicians and how many are merely mice, prepared to follow their leader no matter what disaster lies ahead.

Irish Independent

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