Is COVID-19 really a problem for Brexit? – Conservative Article
This morning, I was reading an article in the Telegraph by Global Health Security Editor Paul Nuki. Nuki argued that looking at how each region is coping during COVID, it appears we are ‘re-regionalising’. Globalisation is coming to an end, and that the world will become increasingly reliant on its geographically close neighbours and that this trend has only been sped up by COVID-19.
But isn’t the UK about to move away from our geographical neighbours and strive out into the (not-so-open) world to strike exciting Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with exotic and far-flung places? Well, despite Nuki’s suggestions of ‘re-regionalisation’, we are. Brexit is still happening.
While I do understand this point of view, I have a far more optimistic opinion for what the virus means for Global Britain.
Much of what we want to export to the world is relatively soft goods and services. The sorts of things that aren’t expensive or difficult to sell to customers on the other side of the world. Industries such as financial services and defence engineering. We already have a large export market for defence in the Pacific.
Think of BAE System’s sale of nine Type-26 Frigates to Australia in 2018 worth at least £20 billion. These goods are easy to export to exotica as they can literally sail there. This should mean that a re-regionalised world should still be accommodating for a post-Brexit Britain.
Perhaps a more important point is the changing view of China, both here in the UK and around the world.
China has long been the ‘workshop of the world’ but this role has started to falter over the last decade. China’s emerging middle-class has started to demand better wages and consumer goods of their own. Their oppression of the Uighurs and actions in the South China Sea during this period has also caused a souring of China’s relations with the West.
All this said, they have remained a vital part of the global economy, particularly in the Pacific region. This has long made certain countries (Australia, Singapore, Malaysia etc.) uneasy. Coronavirus could give these countries an opportunity to reset, and to try to reverse the ‘swing to the east’ by signing FTAs and having closer cooperation with the likes of the UK.
The unreliability of China (with issues such as human rights abuses, aside) has been laid out starkly in the last few months. The nations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are keen to become more of a bulwark against Chinese expansionism, and the addition of the UK is seen as a good way of doing this. The UK has already opened FTA negotiations with two of its leading members, Australia and New Zealand.
I don’t believe that Coronavirus is the death knell for globalisation, and even less so for the prospects of a global Britain after Brexit. But, only time will tell how this all unfolds, and our handling of the virus, and damage it does to our economy, will surely play a part in our negotiating strength on the world stage.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, George Myers
Point of Information
Nothing is uninfluenced by COVID – A Labour Response
I initially found myself agreeing with George. Coronavirus will not bring globalisation to a drastic end. However, it will have a lasting effect on globalisation, and of course on Brexit.
George ends his article with the correct sentiment – only time will tell what effect COVID has had on Brexit, and the world at large. And, as always, hindsight will prove to be a wonderful thing. The UK’s approach to the pandemic will certainly be impactful to our global reputation. How can it not be? And, with our reputation already hindered by Brexit, I am not confident this will be a positive impact.
I do admire the optimism of this article. I too am optimistic about the UK’s future – it would otherwise appear a very depressing world. However, I do not believe optimism alone is helpful in such an unprecedented time.
We cannot ignore the devastating effects of the virus. Almost nothing has been untouched – from small businesses to global trade. I do not think it is fair to say that re-regionalising is “a trend uninfluenced by COVID”. At this stage, nothing has been uninfluenced by COVID.
I would actually have to agree more with Nuki, in that the pandemic has cemented the likelihood of trade between geographical neighbours. For me, this goes further than George’s suggestion that COVID has just brought this to light.
Ultimately, we cannot emerge from this pandemic untouched or uninfluenced. Our entire world looks different. Brexit will too look different.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Halfway out and it’s already beginning to unravel! – a Liberal Response
George writes an interesting article touching on a fault-line that is yet to be explored sufficiently. Covid-19 has laid bare the fundamental weakness of Brexit, the need to work closely with our neighbours. One clear example is the manner in which the UK pulled out of the EU’s vaccine programme for purely political reasons. The Johnson Government now finds itself desperate to justify the Brexit nightmare. Even if it means delaying access to a vaccine for Covid-19. What a sorry state of events.
George’s article also rightly explores the idea of globalisation in relation to Brexit and Covid-19. Voters wracked by the problems of globalisation voted for a rejection of regionalism in favour of ‘Global Britain’ during the 2016 referendum, somewhat unknowingly voting for more globalisation. This further highlights another fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Johnson project.
The manner in which we are now supposed to become a bastion of global free trade, despite a Cold War with China the aforementioned ‘workshop of the world’ very much on the cards, clearly highlights the importance of a good relationship with your neighbours.
In the end, I agree. Covid-19 has begun to unravel Brexit ahead of schedule. However, I fear it will make Johnson even more desperate to justify his Brexit dream. Only time will tell.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Jeeves Sidhu