Brexit was always going to be a mistake. It will damage the economy, it will heighten the already fraught racial tensions and threatens to isolate us from the rest of the world. Given a choice, I would vote Remain a million times over. That’s not to say that I’m in love with the EU. I adore the idea of free movement and it’s a powerful position to be part of the biggest trading bloc in the world but there are problems. There is an issue of accountability, the burden of picking up the pieces of other failing economies and then there are those who seek to exploit free movement, settling in other countries and being an economic burden. When you look into it though, you realise that Britain has its own issues with accountability in Government and that those exploiting the free movement of people and the benefit system make up a tiny percentage. The fact of the matter is that immigrants bring more into this country than they take out which means that the vast majority of immigrants are settled, working, tax paying families. They contribute not just to our economy but also to our society.
When we first voted to leave the EU, I wanted a second referendum. A part of me, I think, still does. The EU is responsible for forcing us to clean up our beaches so that now 95% of them are clean, it sets targets for air pollution that we routinely miss, it has created jobs and made us all more ‘green’ with recycling initiatives and made us all a lot safer. We rely on them for a justice system that we helped create and we have the right to live, work and retire anywhere in the EU. All of those things could potentially be taken away when we leave. Britain, without its arm being forced, could go back to pumping sewage in to the ocean making our beaches unusable again. Millions of jobs could be lost. Our worker and human rights could be stripped away. I’m not saying it will happen. Not at all. I’m saying that, in the wrong hands, it could.
But there was a referendum. Yes, it was advisory and yes, we were all fucking lied to but it happened. Unfortunately, more people voted to leave than to stay. As per usual, too many people didn’t vote and had they bothered, the result might have been different. But it’s too late for ‘what ifs’. I may not respect the result, but I acknowledge it. I understand why the Tories and Labour – who both fought campaigns to remain – are being forced to accept it. To not agree with a democratic decision – whatever the circumstances surrounding it – would be political suicide.
There are a few versions of Brexit that have been thrown around. At first we had the ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Brexits. Then it was a ‘Red, White and Blue’ Brexit and now we seem to have settled on ‘Good Deal’, ‘Bad Deal’ or ‘No Deal’. Why we didn’t just start with the latter trio is beyond me but I want to explore what they really mean.
To me, a ‘Good Deal’ is retaining access to the Single Market, being able to set up new trade deals with other countries whilst accepting limits, managing migration using the rules already set up, which includes deportation of EU citizens if they fail to find work within three months but being able to create own laws, free of the European Courts but working with them as necessary.
A ‘Bad Deal’ is losing the access to the Single Market and having pay over the odds for a service that we already had. It’s breaking down the strength of shared security and the losses of thousands of jobs. Lorries could be looking at 4-5 hour queues to get out of Dover and the rights of citizens abroad could be threatened.
‘No Deal’ would be catastrophic. It would tank the economy, we’d be paying huge amounts to trade with the EU whilst frantically rushing to set up trade routes with the rest of the world at once. Thousands could lose their jobs, we’d enter a recession, both low and high skilled job vacancies would go unfilled due to a lack of immigration and planes literally wouldn’t fly to Europe. Businesses would leave and we would all suffer. How anyone can suggest that ‘No Deal’ would have a good impact on any of us is beyond me. It would be devastating both economically and socially.
As far as I can tell at the moment we’re heading for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. As terrifying as that is, it’s not surprising when we appear to have left Brexit to be negotiated by an imbecile, have a Foreign Secretary who nearly always has his foot in his mouth and a Prime Minister who is massively unfit to lead this – or any – country. The Tories are tearing themselves apart and their incompetence is obvious to everyone. The only cabinet member who seems to be taking Brexit seriously is Phillip Hammond and his brutal honesty has resulted in other Tories calling for him to be fired for not being “optimistic” enough. Unfortunately, the Tory line seems to be ‘Keep Calm, Carry On & Watch the Country Fail’. Optimism doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s time to be honest, no matter how difficult the truth is.
This Conservative Government simply cannot deliver Brexit.
I’m not suggesting that any person or political party has all of the answers but at least Labour seem to have a clue. They were a mess at first but now they seem to have simply rejected the idea of ‘No Deal’, instead suggesting that if the UK and EU were unable to reach an agreement, we would remain members of the EU. That’s the kind of strength we need. No more blind optimism, no more lying. Let’s actually do what is best for the country and stop pretending that we can just get by.
Even if the Tories were to get the best deal possible, I’m not confident they would be able to make the best of it. Leaving the EU means that they get to re-write the rules. They can strip our worker and our human rights. They can destroy the environment and they will be allowed to employ a hard line on immigration, which could ruin the economy and our relationship with the EU. Again, I’m not saying they will, but all of this is possible.
If Brexit is happening, then we need to make it work. This is a deal that could last for 50 or 60 years before it’s revisited and it needs to be done right. Like it or not, prosperity in the UK depends on access to the Single Market and if that means that we’re forced to accept freedom of movement, then we simply need to act on the laws already written into EU law and if the number still remains too high, then we always have the option to curb immigration outside of the EU (not that I think the number has ever been too high). Once we’ve left the EU and the Repeal Bill comes into effect, Britain needs to avoid the status quo and instead plan for future. That means embracing green energy such as the proposed tidal lagoon in Swansea and to take large, quick steps to eradicating the use of fossil fuels.It means ensuring we properly fund start-ups and tech firms and become an innovative country and it means ensuring that we have some of the most forward-thinking rights for workers. We have the option to rebuild many of these laws from scratch and we can genuinely make this a better place to live and country that offers genuine opportunities to the young, to the workforce and to businesses.
Given their track record over the last seven years, I think it’s abundantly clear that the Tories can’t provide that.