Key election battlegrounds face double hit from Brexit and coronavirus

Key English election battlegrounds in the north-west and Midlands will be severely exposed to a double economic hit from Brexit and coronavirus should the UK fail to secure an EU trade deal by the end of the year, new analysis has warned.

Boris Johnson has continued to rule out any extension to Britain’s EU transition deal, which expires from January. It comes despite a deadlock in talks about a future trade deal, before the final round of talks this week.

However, an impact assessment of ending the transition period found that manufacturing, banking, finance and insurance sectors would be “severely exposed” to a double economic hit from Brexit and coronavirus.

The Social Market Foundation analysis divided the country into areas and then placed each in a category between 1 and 5, with 5 representing those most exposed to a double hit. Half of those in the north-west are in category 5 and a further 40% in category 4. It said that the West Midlands, where the Tories made major gains in last year’s election, was also exposed.

There have already been warnings that new border arrangements in the Irish Sea will not be ready by Johnson’s end-of-year deadline, but Downing Street is adamant that the transition period, which gives Britain access to the EU’s single market, will not be extended.

James Kirkup, the SMF director, said: “In some cases and some places, that double impact will be severe. At base, this report demonstrates the simple fact that leaving a developed free-trade agreement with our nearest and largest trading partners at the same time as facing a pandemic will expose many local areas of the UK to a painful double economic impact.”

The study was funded by Best for Britain, which is campaigning for a comprehensive EU trade deal. Naomi Smith, its chief executive, said: “This report, which maps the impact of both shocks, definitively rebuts any speculation that the impact of leaving the transition period could be masked by the coronavirus recession. The data is clear: when you scratch beneath the surface, so many key sectors will be exposed to a dangerous double whammy of economic hits.” 

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