The Observer view on Boris Johnson’s disastrous path to a Covid-19 Brexit

After a botched response to the pandemic, No 10 is now poised to sever EU trading ties and split the union

Covid-19 has pushed the economy into the worst recession on record. GDP fell by a fifth in the three months to June, the biggest quarterly drop of any G7 nation. This is surely the worst possible moment for the government to choose to inflict a further economic shock on the country. Yet that is exactly what Boris Johnson is planning to do. On 1 January, the Brexit transition period will come to an end and Britain will either trade on a no-deal basis with the European Union or, at best, with a bare-bones free trade agreement.

The government’s economic forecasts predict that a no-deal Brexit would depress GDP by more than seven percentage points over 15 years and that a free trade deal outside the customs union and single market would reduce it by just under five points. But even Brexit’s most ardent proponents, who implausibly deny that creating friction in the trading relationship with our closest neighbours would significantly reduce growth over the long term, would concede that there will be a short-term shock to moving to a different relationship. It is a mark of just how mind-bogglingly ideological Johnson and his cabinet are that they refused to ask the EU for the transition period extension earlier this year that would surely have been granted.

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