FFor a long time, people asked me: “Why do you always talk about Brexit?” My answer would take various forms, but it essentially boiled down to: “Because this is the biggest self-inflicted British economic crisis of my career.” » Brexit affects businesses and what economists call “consumers” every day, almost always in a negative way.
More recently, the consistent message from readers I meet, when Brexit comes up in conversation, has been “please don’t stop”. Indeed, it is time to “undo Brexit”.
I have covered many economic crises over the years, including the oil crises of the 1970s and the banking crisis of 2007-09. These have affected most economies. The consequences of the 2016 referendum and our subsequent departure from the European Union are not the result of external forces, but are entirely self-inflicted.
As the disaster of Brexit becomes more evident, it also becomes clear that, in what was largely a protest vote, many people did not know what they were getting into. Well, they certainly know that now. And what people are slowly beginning to understand is that there are still many horrors to come. Last week, following the announcement that various trade deals with countries in far-flung parts of the world amounted to little more than a row of beans, the final blow was dealt to Johnson’s entire body of mendacious reasoning: know that the loss of UK exporters’ privileged market access to our largest and closest trading partner, the EU, would easily be replaced by a major trade deal with the United States.
The news was that President Joe Biden had vetoed any idea of such a deal. This is very significant and, frankly, given the many horrors of the daily diet of other international news, it probably hasn’t received enough media coverage. The wonders of non-EU trade deals that don’t exist cannot replace the best of both worlds that we have enjoyed as members of the EU in general, and the single market – in the creation of which we played a vital role – especially.
I have discovered in my travels that even (almost) shameful Brexiteers now yearn for the single market, something Labor leader Keir Starmer, who frequently rules out returning to it, should take note of. The bureaucratic proliferation of filling out customs forms is driving businessmen and traders crazy. Many are forced to throw in the towel. And they are well aware that from January their attempts to export to the EU will become even more complicated. The uncertainties obviously also bother importers.
And not just business. The obstacles to freedom of movement within the EU also apply to the rest of us. It was reported last week that British passport holders would face huge delays when entering the EU with the introduction of post-Brexit fingerprint checks and facial scanners next year. We already know before this that there were long queues at ports because passports had to be checked. Yes, this is typical of the blatant lies told by Brexiteers about taking back control. Take back control? You’re kidding. Things quickly spiraled out of control, in a country where it’s common to complain that things don’t work very well anyway.
Today it seems reasonable to assume not so much that Labor will win the next general election, but rather that this terrible band of once-proud supporters supposedly The Conservative Party is going to lose it.
There is a famous remark by Samuel Johnson that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” In the case of what remains of the Conservative Party, one could adapt this to “the promise of tax cuts is the last refuge of a conservative scoundrel.”
How they can have the nerve to promise tax relief when public services are in such a state and further cuts to essential public spending are in their plans is appalling; unfortunately, in the circumstances, this is too easy to contemplate.
This government appears insensitive to the clear spread of poverty in the country, most recently epitomized by Suella Braverman’s claim that sleeping rough was a “lifestyle choice”. It reminds me of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, in Oliver Twist: “The great principle of foreign aid is to give the poor exactly what they do not want; and then they get tired of coming.
There are so many distressing social issues that a future Labor government will need to tackle. This is one important reason why it is simply not enough for Starmer to resignedly accept Brexit as “done”.
As I have already noted, Brexit will reduce GDP – the country’s productive potential – by 4-6%. This has huge implications for the revenue Labor will need to realize its ambition to save the economy. Labour’s objective and slogan should be loud and clear: “Undo Brexit!” »