Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
16 November 2020

Dominic Cummings’ departure won’t make a difference to the Brexit negotiations

Positive news on a Covid-19 vaccine is more likely to change the outcome of the EU trade talks than Cummings’ resignation.

By Stephen Bush

Is a deal in sight over Brexit? Time is running out for a deal to be done before the end of the transition period on 31 December. 

The British government has already both made major concessions and won some of its own, but the biggest political stumbling block that remains is over fishing. You can see how a deal can be reached if Boris Johnson is minded to make one  but the politics of it have been complicated by Dominic Cummings’ exit.

[see also: Why Dominic Cummings failed on his own terms]

Despite the fact that Cummings, not Johnson, was the one who first urged the Brexiteers to back Theresa May’s deal, he has managed to acquire a reputation in some quarters as the real guarantor of toughness on Brexit. The reality is that if anything, it’s Johnson himself who is the least inclined to back a deal, and that the exit of one set of pro-Leave backroom boys in favour of a more gender-balanced group of pro-Leave backroom people doesn’t change that. 

[see also: How a giant chicken shows our notion of class is hopelessly outdated]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

What may have changed the calculation is the good news on a vaccine development and the very real possibility that a return to something a lot more like normal life may be round the corner. The advantage of the coronavirus recession is that, from a British diplomatic perspective, you can see how the economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit can be felt or spun as the consequences of coronavirus rather than anything else.

But as we saw over the summer, the economy can recover from lockdown fairly quickly even with social distancing in place. So, if this latest lockdown does end, as promised, on 2 December, the economic hit of no-deal Brexit may not feel like the latest in a series of unfortunate events, but a bump in the road just when the country feels on the up-and-up again. 

This is the argument that is being made by the government’s two economic departments  the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). And it is this changed understanding of the economic hangovers of the novel coronavirus that could alter the prospects for a Brexit deal, more than any change of personnel in Downing Street or the White House.