We were due to leave European Union (EU) on Friday last week. However, as I write my column this week, we are still no closer to any coherent withdrawal agreement and thus remain stuck in a bizarre kind of governmental limbo.
There were many reasons why people chose to leave the EU during the 2016 referendum, one of the biggest being the repatriation of sovereignty and accountability over the people who are elected and entrusted to govern us. Indeed, our ancient parliamentary system is often cited as a shining example of freedom and democracy that many other countries have adopted. Our ‘first past the post’ electoral process is almost faultless in its simplicity. MP’s are elected by their various constituencies to represent them in Parliament. On the whole, constituent’s views are based upon party manifestoes and occasionally by referendum. On the issue of the UK leaving the EU it was a crystal clear to-do-list. First, we had a referendum on whether to remain or leave the EU. It was a very simple question, with a very clear and overwhelming result to leave. Secondly, a commitment to honour that ‘people’s vote’ was enshrined in both the Labour and Conservative 2017 general election manifestoes. Thirdly, in February 2017, Parliament voted by 498 to 114 to trigger article 50, the formal legal process to leave the EU.
So, it’s not unreasonable to think, MP’s of all persuasions were given a very clear and unambiguous remit to deliver what’s become known as ‘Brexit’. However, what ensued, and continues today, is nothing short of a diplomatic farcical pantomime of Monty Python proportions. But this is no satire, it’s the British government, a country that regularly lectures others on democracy and has even gone to war to liberate people from despotic regimes. Yet here, on our front lawn, we are witnessing a disgraceful democratic betrayal, with the rest of the world watching, literally agog, with bewilderment.
Theresa May, like Nero, has fiddled while Brexit burns. It would be disingenuous to lay all the blame at her lack of leadership or courage to stand aside when it was obvious she was on a hiding to nothing. An almost equal share of the blame must be laid at our elected MP’s or “Muppets in Parliament” as they’ve been referred to on some social media sites.
Except for a small minority of principled politicians, far too many have shown themselves to be nothing more than preening, arrogant, self-serving popinjays that have ignored the will of the people they are elected to represent. The message was clear; the task was simple. So what on earth possessed them to descend into the utter public show of democratic contempt of the British electorate?
Perhaps they really are as useless and as incompetent as many have suggested, or maybe they are just scared witless of Brexit because it means they’ll have to start working for a living and become fully accountable for ruling the country, instead of being overpaid administrators to EU plutocracy?
Whatever the reason, they have demonstrably shown they are incapable of negotiating the sale of a second hand car never mind a meaningful withdrawal agreement.
So what happens now? Well it’s anyone’s guess really. But to progress maturely it’s time to finally put an end to all the ludicrous scare mongering and misleading twaddle that is reaching almost apoplectic levels over a ‘No Deal’ Brexit along with the grossly over-egged economic benefits of EU membership, the Customs Union and Single Market.
While I can understand, to a degree, the Conservatives kowtowing to the demands of big business and their PR and lobbying arm the CBI, it’s a tad disappointing to see many in the Labour party and Trade Unions, whose supporters constituted a great number of those who voted to leave, falling for the idea that leaving the EU, Customs Union and Single Market will cause catastrophic harm to jobs, increase poverty and create untold pressure on key public services, such as the NHS.
Contrary to what we are being fed, the Customs Union and Single Market isn’t the economic panacea it’s portrayed and ‘No Deal’ far from a catastrophe. In fact, for the most part, it’s the opposite. Time for a Brexit reality check.
Jobs: 70% of the UK economy is in the service sector. While this is good for revenue it is not so good for jobs with many increasingly being lost to automation. We need to go back to manufacturing to help create and stimulate real ‘hands on jobs’ for our future prosperity. To do this, businesses and budding entrepreneurs need to be freed from the EU’s shady mix of unmitigated protectionism and endless red tape. With some 90% of global economic growth set to come from outside the EU in the coming years, the future of manufacturing jobs depends on our unhindered access to high-growth developing countries.
Prices: The Customs Union is a ‘tariff wall’, particularly affecting food and clothing, so accounts for a big share of poorer households’ spending. Under WTO rules many staple goods would, in fact, be cheaper rather than more expensive.
NHS: Bed blocking causes around 8,000 deaths and costs the NHS around £3billion a year. However, EU procurement regulations prevents the Dept. of Health from undertaking meaningful reforms that could address this problem.
Despite the spin and duplicitous misgivings of big business and the pusillanimous ramblings of MP’s and civil servants the long term economic prosperity of the UK lies outside of the EU and we need to trust in the British bulldog spirit and embrace this one in a lifetime opportunity with true grit.
Without doubt, a no deal Brexit will not be without pain, but sometimes a little bit of collective hardship can spur a nation to come together, persevere and prosper. So, try to think of a No Deal Brexit like undergoing a hip replacement. After a short period of discomfort and adjustment, before you know it, we’ll be back on our feet and running rings round the lame and crippling EU.
This article was first published in the Newcastle Journal on the 4th April 2019