“The prime minister has a significant opportunity here to win popularity and secure himself a solid future; if he revoked Art 50 before 31 January 2020 on national security grounds he would immediately assume the mantle of a hero. But if the ‘Russia Report’ comes out after Brexit, he may well end up being cast as a villain, even if his name is absent from the report.”
My colleague David Wolchover and I concluded this on 24 January 2020, in an article entitled ‘Is Brexit a Russia-backed coup?’ for the New Law Journal. Six months later, faced with a combination of Covid-19 already affecting the economy and the knowledge that Russia had been trying to interfere in voting within the UK and USA, the prime minister failed to request an extension to the transition period.
This means he now has until the end of December 2020 (just five months) to secure a deal with the EU, or he will fail to agree the terms of a deal – a position dubbed ‘no deal.’
For those doubtful about Russian interference in UK democracy, please note the following extracts from the US Senate report ‘Putin’s asymmetric assault on democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US National security’:
“Mr. Putin has thus made it a priority of his regime to attack the democracies of Europe and the United States and undermine the transatlantic alliance upon which Europe’s peace and prosperity have depended upon for over 70 years.
“The Kremlin has long aimed to undermine European integration and the EU, in addition to its aims to sow confusion and undermine confidence in democratic processes themselves, making Brexit a potentially appealing target.”
The intelligence and security committee Russia report was released on 21 July outlining the threats from Russia, which include cyber and disinformation. The report acknowledges that the “UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns and political influence operations” [paragraph 31]. It also identifies that [at paragraph 12] “a continuing international consensus is needed against Russian aggressive action. The West is strongest when it acts collectively and that is the way in which we can best attach a cost to Putin’s actions.” It is clear by reading page 12 of the report that there has been insufficient assessment to what extent, if any, Russia interfered with the 2016 EU referendum.
However, other than highlighting concerns that foreign powers are influencing UK state policy, the Russia report makes no difference to our current situation: we are being steamrollered into a no-deal Brexit by our own government.
More articles from Yorkshire Bylines:
- Is this the beginning of the end for Vladimir Putin?
- Spain’s welcome message to UK citizens
- Symbols and cynicism: Britain’s cultural war
While a no-deal scenario would serve one of Putin’s goals – to weaken the UK and the EU – it is difficult to know who else will benefit. It may increase the bank accounts of disaster capitalists, but for the average person it will result in loss. Whether those losses are the restrictions on working or delivering services in the EU, or the loss of opportunity for people and their children, or a reduction in UK-based income due to the anticipated loss to the economy, or the loss of our beloved NHS as it becomes part of the USA-UK trade deal … it is most likely that the general public will experience negative consequences from leaving the EU.
In 2016, George Osborne confirmed that the UK would ‘be permanently poorer’ by leaving the EU [full report available HERE]. I have therefore personally been at a loss for four years to understand why any reasonable government would embrace the worse possible option – a no-deal Brexit. We were told the Conservatives would ‘get the best deal’, yet they now appear to have altered their position to no deal – a volte-face that is all the more astounding because it is expressly not what the British public voted for.
What type of government would commit to an uncertain and unstable future that will result in fewer freedoms and a decrease in gross domestic product? The answer is – one that believes in ‘titanic’ successes. For those who are unaware, the Titanic (sold as the biggest and most luxurious of its time) hit a visible iceberg head-on and sank. There is no better metaphor for Brexit, since the crew had also been warned several times about the ice and proceeded regardless.
I forewarn no-deal Brexit will sink the UK.
Amanda Robinson is a barrister at Great Russell Street Chambers