Boris Johnson's dilemma: will coronavirus delay Brexit (again)?

The UK and EU chief negotiators are both in self-isolation as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, throwing the timeline of Brexit talks into doubt. Britain's David Frost, 55, is reported to be showing symptoms of coronavirus, likewise the EU's Michel Barnier, 69, who announced on Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Brexit is not yet over: it is an ongoing process, and the trade talks are possibly the most important, and contentious, detail of all.

Any further extension of the transition would also entail Britain continuing to make its significant financial contributions to the bloc, something which the EU would welcome as it currently appears unable to fill the €65 billion hole left by the UK's withdrawal.

This would not sit well with Britain's electorate. Boris Johnson, who has attracted heavy criticism for his indecisive and highly questionable approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, will be well aware of this fact.

Whilst the prime minister has ruled out any further extension to Brexit, he has a record of failure to deliver: his announcement that he would rather “die in a ditch” than fail to deliver Brexit on October 31st 2019 resulted in acute embarrassment for him and for his country.

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Johnson faces two existential crises at the moment: his failure to act decisively on coronavirus puts the UK under a hugely overdue and deeply unpopular lockdown that will likely lead to widespread civil disobedience in the context of lack of visible policing and failure to investigate, let alone solve, most crimes. It also places the UK firmly on the same trajectory as Italy: rising infection and mortality rates suggest that the horrifying statistics coming out of that beleaguered country will be replicated in the UK in around two weeks, leading inevitably to the collapse of the NHS.

Any further delay in the Brexit talks, albeit due to unforeseen and largely uncontrollable circumstances, could lead to the end of a promising career.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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