Brexit & Covid-19 – A Fatal Combination for A Country in Transition

A pandemic-hit economy, growing levels of unemployment, and weak household consumption – the current state of the United Kingdom is on the verge of a “systemic economic crisis,” the government recently admitted to The Guardian. As the UK is set to exit the single market on 31 December, the country struggles with several fiascos simultaneously. 

“Winter 2020 could see a combination of severe flooding, pandemic influenza, a novel emerging infectious disease and coordinated industrial action, against a backdrop of the end of the [Brexit] transition period,” a confidential Cabinet Office briefing reviewed by The Guardian warns.

Adjusting to Brexit under these circumstances may prove very difficult for the country, especially if a new trade deal is not secured. According to CNN Business, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey estimates that the long-term effects of such a failure will be far more severe than those of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Together, Covid-19 and a no-deal Brexit could cost the UK around 134 billion pounds ($174 billion) each year in lost GDP for a decade, the law firm Baker McKenzie said in a report. The political consultancy and PR firm Cadex Consulting helps clients deal with the growing uncertainty caused by Brexit and Covid-19. “Organisations and public figures alike now feel the pressure to prepare for various post-Brexit scenarios. Increasingly more clients seek our expertise to assess the impact of the EU-UK negotiations, create appropriate positioning strategies, and advise them on contingency plans,” Christopher Allen explains. 

How Brexit Affects the UK’s Response to Covid-19

To make matters worse, the already strained relationship between Brexit and The EU is being put to the test. Until now, the UK’s response to the pandemic has benefited largely from the advantages of the single market. Once the UK leaves the European Union, medicine shortages may become the new reality, as the UK accesses most NHS medicines and medical devices via the EU. Moreover, the UK may face export blocks on medical supplies if a scenario similar to the first wave of COVID-19 reoccurs after December 31st. 

Without continued cooperation with the EU, the UK will also be excluded from data and intelligence exchange through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). A deal may secure access to the Early Warning and Response System to facilitate effective communications on infectious diseases, but the outcome is yet unpredictable. 

“Our worry is that all sides in these negotiations are under massive time pressures to agree a future trade deal and so there is a risk that the safety and health of patients and citizens across Europe could be overlooked,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance at the beginning of the year. “There is no reason why leaving the EU should mean that the UK and the EU cannot maintain existing arrangements but if we are to achieve this health has to be seen as a priority, alongside business, in the negotiations.”