On January 31, 2020, Britain exited the EU. Since then, Britain has struggled with coronavirus and EU trade talks. Like the U.S., Britain was hit hard by the coronavirus: Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell gravely ill, the country’s death toll is the highest in Europe (and the third-highest in the world) and its economy will suffer the largest hit of any industrialized nation. Also like the U.S., the government was slow to implement a lockdown. It also botched the reopening, leading devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to disregard Johnson’s mixed messaging for England.
Despite the pandemic, Brexit still looms large. When the UK left the EU it began an 11-month transition period, enabling businesses and citizens to adjust while the two sides hash out a free trade agreement. The outbreak of COVID-19 hampered talks, given social distancing restrictions and ill negotiators. Johnson decided against extending this transition period, which would have enabled more time for negotiations but kept the UK bound by EU rules and financial obligations. The question now is whether the UK and EU can make a deal by the end of the year, as there are significant disagreements on issues like fair competition, fisheries and governance. If not, they would return to trading on WTO terms. Leaving the EU without a trade deal would create an economic shock in Britain.
The road ahead for Britain looks precarious. Join UK, EU and Brexit expert Amanda Sloat as she helps make sense of Britain’s self-imposed predicament, what must happen and what the likely results will be.
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