The Guardian view on Brexit and Covid: a nation on the brink | Editorial

Difficulties created by the pandemic and departure from the EU threaten to converge – and promises of a bright future are not reassuring

As astronomers marvel over the “great conjunction” that sees the largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, almost line up, the sights of political observers are fixed on a conjunction of a different sort. Brexit and Covid have been twinned throughout 2020 as the two biggest challenges facing the UK. But the emergence of a new strain of the virus in south-east England, leading to the re-imposition of a lockdown and the introduction of tough travel restrictions, all in the run-up to our departure from the EU, means previously distinct problems have come into disastrous alignment.

With just 10 days to go and still no trade deal, disruption to imports and exports – particularly in Kent where around a quarter of all goods from the EU arrive – has long been expected, whether or not a deal is finally hammered out. Indeed, the road haulage industry has been vocal in its protests at the lack of preparedness, and probable consequences. Now, the closure of the port of Dover due to a French ban on accompanied freight, because of fears that its passage could spread a more contagious variant of the virus, means the chaos has come early.

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