Brexit has not gone away, but the world’s attention is on the Covid-19 pandemic. Kevin Featherstone, Tony Travers, Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz and Ros Taylor (LSE) explain how our coverage will change.
The LSE’s Brexit 2020 blog, in common with other aspects of life, will have to adapt to both the short and long-term impact of the coronavirus on government, politics, economics and much else. Formally, the UK government is still committed to the existing timetable for the Brexit transition period, which is currently planned to conclude at the end of this year. In reality, there are so many uncertainties affecting government and politics it is impossible to be certain if the Brexit process will finally be completed by 31 December 2020.
We will continue with our work and publish the blog, though, for the time being, with slightly fewer articles than hitherto. We will include regular updates about the Brexit negotiation process, covering the meetings that have taken place, what has been discussed and what decisions have been made. At present, all 27 EU countries and the UK are involved in unilateral, national, actions designed to reduce the immediate impact of the virus. It is possible that in the medium term some form of co-ordinated action will emerge. We will include contributions from experts analysing such initiatives, and assess their longer-term impact on the UK/EU relationship.
LSE Brexit 2020 will therefore become, in part, a response to the coronavirus crisis. The kind of issues we will expect to cover in the coming weeks include:
Emergency constraints on the democratic process
The UK and the EU will be conducting Brexit negotiations (assuming these continue) against a backdrop of reduced capacity for parliamentary oversight. Local elections have been postponed within the UK, Parliament has closed early for Easter and it seems likely other short-term changes will be made to the normal processes of democracy. Media scrutiny is also likely to be reduced. Changes to the operation of Parliament, government, the European Commission and other institutions will significantly affect the Brexit process.
The burden on governments of dealing with two complex issues in parallel
The UK government, those of the EU27 and the European Commission are likely to be operating in ‘emergency’ mode for some time to come. Focussing on the detail of Brexit negotiations and their consequences for the future of the UK and the EU27 against the backdrop of a worsening crisis will, at least for a while, make it difficult for negotiators and government departments fully to concentrate on issues such as fisheries policy, trade deals and migration rules. Only when the pandemic has been controlled will it be possible to return to normal. The timescale for achieving control is currently impossible to predict.
Possible longer-term effects on trade, trade policy and co-operation
Coronavirus has rapidly led to a suspension of elements of EU competition policy, to nationally-focused restrictions on some exports and to an immediate debate about industrial self-sufficiency. Of course, short-term concerns may abate once the immediate crisis has passed. But others may endure – notably, perhaps, a concern with border controls to ensure appropriate health and safety standards. The experience of coronavirus will likely impact on the agenda of the Brexit negotiations, and interpreting this will be important.
Potential changes in public attitudes to industrial policy, research funding and taxation
It seems almost inevitable that the response to the coronavirus crisis will include a debate about the need (or otherwise) for more national ‘champion’ companies, additional funding for medical research and the near inevitability of a requirement to raise taxes and/or cut public expenditure. Indeed, the policy approaches adopted to cope with the sudden and massive increase in public indebtedness may potentially frame economic progress for a generation. Attitudes to the state and regulation are likely to change. EU and UK responses to such issues could profoundly affect the Brexit negotiations.
Changing cultural and societal responses insofar as they affect the EU/UK relationship
In much the same way that the 2008 financial crisis seemingly took more than a decade to affect the public mood in ways that affected elections, policy and trade, the 2020 coronavirus event will inevitably change public attitudes towards government, the power of the state, business and public services. Such cultural and societal sensitivities will again feed through to political parties and electoral outcomes. The way they do so will affect the Brexit process and longer-term attitudes to the EU and national sovereignty.
Impacts on multilateral cooperation
The immediate governmental response to the coronavirus crisis has been remarkably nation state-oriented: there has been little coordinated, multilateral, action. This fact may reinforce an ‘everyone for themselves’ approach or, alternatively, convince governments they need to work together more effectively. Either outcome is important for the EU/UK relationship.
Impacts on economic and fiscal policy affecting the Eurozone
As during the 2008 financial crisis, the recent need to deliver an ECB response to a series of national economic impacts has proved challenging. The future governance of the Eurozone will also affect the Brexit process and longer-term EU/UK relations.
We plan that all of these subjects and more will be addressed by LSE Brexit 2020 during the coming months. As usual, we invite high-quality contributions on this agenda that will provoke lively debate and impact on current thinking. This is in the best tradition of LSE.
This post represents the views of the authors and not those of the Brexit blog, nor LSE. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.