The storm before the hurricane? ‘Disappointing’ Brexit negotiations mean Covid-19 2.0 could peak just as UK hits hard Brexit

As the latest round of Brexit negotiations end in stalemate, ParcelHero warns the second wave of coronavirus could reach its peak in the UK by New Year, just as Britain crashes out of the EU. The international courier urges that Brexit must be postponed to avoid manufacturers and retailers suffering a huge slump in demand abroad just as a second lockdown starts at home.

The current round of EU-UK Brexit negotiations finished today with little agreement, increasing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit just as a second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic reaches its peak, warns the international delivery expert ParcelHero. It fears UK retailers and businesses are potentially facing a perfect storm as the UK crashes out of the European Union (EU) just as coronavirus 2.0 reaches its peak, meaning both overseas and domestic sales will be devastated.

This week’s talks ended with the UK Chief Negotiator, David Frost, saying: ‘We have made very little progress towards agreement on the most significant outstanding issues between us’ and the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirming little progress has been made, and the EU and UK’s positions are ‘very divergent’ on key areas.

With experts forecasting a winter wave of coronavirus, and EU negotiators saying this week’s talks were ‘disappointing’, ParcelHero believes it is time for the UK to agree to an extension to negotiations. It warns leaving the EU without a deal on January 1 would be the final nail in the coffin for many manufacturers and retailers.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘Vital Brexit negotiations had to be conducted by video link this week, hardly ideal for such sensitive and critical discussions. They ended in acrimony with the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying progress had been disappointing. ‘Why should we help British businesses promote their services in Europe, when we have no guarantee our businesses will get similar treatment in the UK?’ he asked.

That’s very worrying, as the timing of negotiations are reaching a cliff edge. Both sides are due to decide by the end of June whether the current deadline for negotiating an agreement should be extended beyond the end of December, but the UK is already insisting it will not agree to any extension, even if the EU requests one.

‘We are facing a financial disaster and it is time to end political posturing and face reality. If the UK does suffer a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, it is likely to peak around the end of December. Some experts fear it will necessitate a second lockdown period, closing stores once again. This would correspond with Britain’s departure from the European Union on January 1st. Progress on Brexit talks this week seems to have been like extracting teeth. What this means is a double hit to domestic sales and overseas sales for Britain’s retailers and manufacturers, who are already punch-drunk from this year’s events.

‘Yesterday the World Health Organisation’s Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, warned that the UK and its European neighbours should prepare for a deadlier second wave of coronavirus this winter. He revealed there are now new cases in places where the virus had apparently disappeared, such as Wuhan and South Korea. And the UK’s own Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said in an online lecture yesterday that the virus may be more severe and spread more rapidly in a second peak during the winter.

‘That is grim enough news for the UK’s hard-pressed manufacturers and retailers, who will also be dealing with the impact of a recession caused by the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. What is breath-taking is that, even knowing all this, the Government is insisting there can be no extension to Brexit negotiations, even though both sides concede there has been only ‘limited progress’ so far.

Discussions are due to resume in June, but in reality an extension to negotiations, in the light of an unprecedented global crisis, seems not only prudent, but essential.’