Eurasia Group warns Covid-19 could delay Brexit

17 March 2020 3 min. read
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The never-ending Brexit saga could see yet another twist before the end of the year, according to an expert from political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. European Managing Director Mujtaba Rahman has estimated that crises emerging from the Covid-19 outbreak could delay Brexit – and with it, any of the Government’s plans to cut immigration.

Also known as Covid-19, the Coronavirus outbreak of 2019-20 is an infectious disease, which causes those affected to develop a fever, dry cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. A sore throat, runny nose or sneezing is less common, while cases can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure in the most vulnerable. While its mortality rate is still being debated by experts, it is currently being estimated anywhere between 3.4% (which would be higher than Spanish Flu, which killed 100 million people from 1918-20) and under 1% (similar to seasonal influenza).

However, it may not be the virus’ direct impacts which have the largest impact – as while it may not be deadly for the vast majority of those infected, it could well side-line millions of workers across the world, who will be unable to work while they recover. The economic impact of this could well be that global markets are finally shunted into the lasting recession they have consistently flirted with over the last three years.

Europe at Eurasia Group warns Covid-19 could delay Brexit

In the UK, which is approaching a make-or-break moment in its near-four-year effort to exit the European Union, the virus could pose such a threat that one consultancy has warned it could scupper the Government’s post-Brexit immigration plans. According to Mujtaba Rahman, European Managing Director for political risk research consultancy at Eurasia Group, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be forced to delay Brexit over the Covid-19 outbreak, meaning it would have to delay all its proposed changes to Britain’s border policy.

Rahman told the Daily Express, “The capacity of the London and Brussels machines to handle complex trade talks while being swamped by tackling the virus might stretch them beyond their limits… There is already a belief in Whitehall that the outbreak could delay the government’s plans to introduce its post-Brexit immigration regime in January 2021.”

Embattled Home Secretary Priti Patel has already outlined a move to bring an end to the bloc of 27’s free movement rules in the UK, as of January 1st 2021, with all potential migrants entering the UK having to score 70 points on the new system in order to qualify for a visa. In order to reach this threshold, applicants will need a job offer from an approved sponsor, such as an employer, cleared by the Home Office (worth 50 points); that job offer must be at a “required skill level” (a further 20 points); and the applicant must be able to speak English to a certain level (10 points).

According to the political risk expert, his sources are concerned the virus could “stretch” the Conservative Government “beyond their limits,” and give rise to three conditions which would cause Ministers to seek yet another Brexit extension. First, the “tight timetable” for Brexit negotiations is expected to be exacerbated by the players having to deal with containment in their respective nations.

Meanwhile, both sides gathering in Brussels or London for another five sessions before June will be called into question, and even though Rahman believes these could take place via videoconference, “fewer face-to-face meetings could be highly problematic for the talks, especially given the lack of trust between the two sides.” Finally, as the economic strains of the outbreak hit home, the Prime Minister may be “reluctant to impose more burdens on business already struggling,” forcing him into a Brexit delay.