Current Affairs Digest: Brexit

Catch up on Brexit articles you may have missed in June 2020, including an article on the impact of coronavirus on Brexit.

Coronavirus and Brexit negotiations

Peter Kellner argues that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted Brexit in two ways: firstly, by undermining support for the Government from within the Conservative party; and secondly, by creating barriers for effective and timely negotiations to take place.

To evidence his first point, Kellner states that the political advantage Boris Johnson gained with his 2019 election victory has been weakened by his Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He says that Conservative MPs who may have been sympathetic to an extension of the Brexit deadline in January could not now be persuaded, and that trying to do so could turn their “anger into rebellion”. The author pinpoints Boris Johnson’s decision to defend his adviser, Dominic Cummings, as a point of contention between some Conservative MPs and their leader.

Next, Kellner moves on to detail the shortcomings of the current plans for negotiations. He argues that video conferences are not a perfect replacement for face-to-face meetings as subtleties are lost. He goes on to argue that this creates an unproductive situation, in which some elements of previously hidden discussions are now conducted in public e.g. through press conferences or interviews.

Away from the pandemic, Kellner states that differences remain in the EU and the UK’s understanding of the level playing field rules. He argues that the EU view the level playing field rules as a “solemn commitment”, whilst the UK believes they are open for interpretation. Even without the pandemic causing additional issues, the author is unsure how the two negotiators can overcome this obstacle.

Read the full article: Peter Kellner, ‘The Coronavirus traps Brexit and Boris Johnson’, Carnegie Europe, 2 June 2020

Post-Brexit trade deals

This article presents the case for a reignited relationship between the UK and Africa. The author argues that Africa needs support from the UK to help the continent recover from the economic impact of coronavirus, but also that the UK will need trade deals with African countries following its departure from the EU later in the year.

Westcott begins the article by outlining the historic relationship between Africa and the UK. He explains that Britain initially remained close with Africa immediately after former British colonies gained independence. He states that this relationship meant economic partnerships, educational opportunities and financial donations. However, it has been reported that this relationship has deteriorated since the turn of the century

The author talks about his discussions with people living in Africa (in countries such as Senegal, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa) about how they have recently felt “political neglect and commercial retreat” from Britain. Westcott notes that no real policy changes have caused this perceived distance, rather that visas are becoming more expensive and British brands are less available in African countries. The article explores how Theresa May began to try to rebuild the relationship, and how this has been continued in part by Boris Johnson. The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted these efforts.

Westcott states that Britain will need Africa as a trading partner post-Brexit. He suggests the UK should begin rebuilding its relationship with the continent by proving economic support through the pandemic.

Read the full article: Nicholas Westcott, ‘Britain needs African partners after Brexit—it must not neglect the continent now’, The Conversation, 27 May 2020