“Coming to a free trade agreement with the EU should be one of the easiest in the course of human history.”Dr Liam Fox MP, 20th July 2017, on becoming Secretary of State for International Trade
I’d hoped to write this yesterday on the anniversary, but I was otherwise engaged.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the referendum on Britain’s EU membership was something that happened a couple of years ago. It was, after all, supposed to be an easy affair. Just ask Dr Liam Fox, quoted above, or David Davis, once Brexit Secretary, who famously failed to read his department’s briefing documents before appearing in front of a Committee of MPs.
Depending on which Boris Johnson you ask – the established pro-EU member of the Conservative establishment – he might say, as he did on 7th February in his Telegraph column: “Leaving would mean embroiling the Government in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country.” How prescient that turned out to be, what with COVID and all.
Of course, he later, leading the Leave campaign as he saw the opportunity to seize the crown, said on 11th March 2016 to an audience of Leave supporters that Britain could copy Canada’s arrangement: “I put it to you, all those who say that there would be barriers to trade with Europe if we were to do a Brexit, do you seriously believe that they would put up tariffs against UK produce of any kind, when they know how much they want to sell us their cake, their champagne, their cheese from France? It is totally and utterly absurd.”
We didn’t end up copying Canda, though, did we?
What we do know is that two Governments made a hatchet job of negotiating Brexit, breaking promises that the Leave campaign gave on fishing, roaming charges, trade arrangements and how quickly and financially expandable this would all be for the British economy.
We don’t yet know the real damage that Brexit has inflicted given that we are in the middle of a national crisis (hopefully now emerging), but what we do know is that the end of free trade has meant a huge increase in costs to business. Many have gone under. Many more probably are still being artificially supported by the financial support they’re receiving for the pandemic.
I guess, for me, one of the greatest ironies about the nonsense on the sides of buses and blatant lies, is the fact that it was pitted as a revolution against the establishment.
The current establishment has given its mates contracts on calculating averages of student attainment (subsequently abolished, but the firm was still paid), strange goings on with having to build our own Test and Trace system when we could’ve bought one there and then, the Health Secretary going for casual drinks with Lex Greensill and Cameron and Boris misusing Tory donations.
Leave voters swapped the European Union for the most arrogant Government I’ve ever seen. The magnitude to which they are quite clearly not just bent but incompetent is almost unfathomable.
Johnson might be a fine campaigner, but he is a hopeless PM. His mismanagement of COVID and the Brexit negotiations (Northern Ireland being completed sold out, for example) have shown us that smashing one unaccountable elite and swapping it for another might just have served us ill. After all, I saw lips of Government ministers and Tory MPs during Question Time in the early days of the pandemic saying that herd immunity was the strategy that they were pursuing. Now they are gaslighting the nation by saying that they never did.
Still, I’m not saying that the Opposition are any better. They aren’t. And isn’t that the terribly sad thing about all of this? People sold a sick pup, still voting for it, because there’s nobody better to vote for.