Recently, the Organisation for Economic co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast a slump in UK national income of 11.5%, the worst in the developed world. Part of this assessment warned that failure to obtain a trade deal with the EU by the end of the transition period would make this slump much worse.
Number 10 became more assertive, mistaking machismo for strength. Chief Brexit negotiator David Frost wrote to Michel Barnier that some of Brussels proposals were "egregious" and "Not what any democratic country could sign up to."
But Barnier's proposals are based on the Political Declaration that Boris Johnson DID
sign. How is the EU being egregious, by proposing that Britain stick to an existing agreement...?
Frost tweeted grandly that UK would seek no extension to the current talks, as if it held all the cards. But Frost negotiates on behalf of a small island nation with a damaged economy against the much bigger, more united and better organised EU.
Number 10 attempts to bully the EU thinking it can intimidate them into submission. This delusion is based on a willful misreading of what happened last Autumn when the EU agreed to a withdrawal agreement that was negotiated with the EU, by Teresa May (and at the time, Boris Johnson described it as a "turd" ).
The EU did this not because Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were strong, but because those two agreed to accept what the EU had proposed in the first place before May inserted a few tweaks. Despite British claims that they'd "won", what Britain had done was sign up to what the EU were happy with in the first place.
But number 10 only understands machismo and triumphalism. The same thing was applied to the early stages of Coronavirus. While other world leaders were preparing for lockdown, Johnson was in hospitals shaking hands with Covid-19 sufferers and ostentatiously ignoring distancing measures. That would come home to roost for him later.
The message being sent out was that UK was sticking two fingers up at the virus.
Now, when the consequences of machismo don't go to plan with this government, they deny any culpability. As the British death rate soared, and the global chart revealed the scale of British deaths, it was dropped from daily briefings.
If the information doesn't fit their narrative the information is changed.
Dominic Cummings was caught out altering his previous blogs from months back, to fit events that had since transpired.
This changing of the narrative is what I believe will happen at the start of next year. At this time a "Liberated UK" is being hailed. If instead there is chaos, COVID-19 will be blamed. Having refused the offer of an extension, COVID-19 will be used as a shield for the turmoil of Brexit.
After Johnson's early assertiveness and handshaking he belatedly imposed a lockdown. Similarly he has had to change tack on face masks, quarantines, schools opening, the NHS, fees for foreign workers, the significance of test and trace, free meals for school children and much more.
On Brexit, when faced with how to handle the Northern Ireland border without the 50'000 extra staff he promised, and without building any of the planned customs sheds, there came a sheepish statement: UK government proposes that there won't be a border, well, not much of one. At least temporarily.
This was not an expedient compromise, it was a clash with reality because UK businesses already having to deal with COVID-19 were not ready and started getting on his back. The EU however, are much more advanced with their planning for customs in Ireland. As usual, the EU are much better prepared for border controls - And they aren't the ones that started Brexit...!!!!
The confusion also extends to food standards. Trade Secretary and former remainer Liz Truss assumed she would keep Brexit devotees in Westminster happy by pursuing speedy talks with USA over a trade deal. But the farming and food retail sector in UK is deeply worried about the double whammy of tariffs being imposed on exports to EU while UK will be flooded with cheap imports of low quality food that doesn't meet current safety standards, from US.
Johnson must secretly be cursing Truss for her newly discovered free market evangelism, risking everything on a trade deal with Trump, who could be gone by November. Johnson and his followers are bewildered by the complexity of it all and can't cope.
It is not wise to assume that sensible expediency will prevail where Brexit is concerned. Cummings still thinks he knows best and gives Johnson his orders accordingly. The Brexit core in Downing Street still think too that they know best and assume critics are stuck in an outdated metropolitan bubble.
The Tory government marched close to the cliff edge in their response to COVID-19. The next cliff edge looming is Brexit. The Tory party will not hesitate to jump.
They'll tell us that a war has been won and our world will flourish. But follow the pattern of the virus. If they jump and the economy sinks further, they'll deny they ever jumped in the first place.