Brexit, Lies and Damned Lies

One key pledge, a thumping lie, was emblazoned along the side of Johnson’s chariot.

As the Disunited Kingdom struggles to survive after junking the international partnership and single market of the European Union, losing freedom of travel, Brexit is seen for the catastrophe it was destined to become. As a member, England held a veto over rules and regulations it disliked, (or thought anti-English) but only eight new regulations required its use. Figures published recently show us the truth, it has cost us way more to leave the EU and all its benefits than stay in.

The EU saw no wars among its members, a miracle after hundreds of years of wars England with everybody on the continent one time or another, and some European countries with their neighbour. Peace meant prosperity, a future where the chance that a parent might out-live their chilren, no longer sent to fight in a war. English Tories now get us dragged into a war in order to ingratiate us with the USA for trade deals they ain’t securing. They hand out money to friendly burghs, funds no match for those awarded and guaranteed annually by the EU. The EU outlaws tax havens a few days before the UK leaves the EU in the nick of corrupt time to endorse tax havens as a legitimate right. Money must trickle upwards, the neoliberal creed being, money in the hands of the masses will only be squandered. Put another way, the best intellects are always the rich.

Brexiteers are running around still telling big fat porkies: ‘Brexit will revitalises a moribund Britain,’ they claim without offering a shred of evidence. Instead, the plotters plotted, knowing leaving the EU would help emasculate Scotland as a self-sufficient nation, forcing Scots to rely on trading with England. It left England free to plunder the resources of its neighbour in good old fashioned colonial style. And in addition, Scotland’s colonisation could continue unabated without the protection of the control of EU human rights.

A thoroughly disgruntled and very English Andrew Rawnsley, here concerned with England’s ills – writing of ‘this country’ as if one homogenous nation – illuminates the disasterous delusions of the Tory party led by a fanatical liar and narcissist more worried about his tonsure showing than what the nations of the UK would suffer as a consequence of his far-right certainty that English is and always will be best.

If No voters in 2014 are looking at the desperate mess Scotland faces, including a main nationalist party that is effectively leaderless, obsessed with chasing squirrels, it’s sovereignty challenged, it’s people belittled daily, they must surely have profound regrets now.

by Andrew Rawnsley

At 11pm on the last day of January, it will be precisely three years since the UK departed the European Union, an anniversary that prompts me to ask: how are you enjoying the “new golden age”?

That’s what we were promised by the proselytisers of Brexit, none with more hyperbole than Jacob Rees-Mogg. “The moment of national renewal has come,” he ejaculated on the pages of the Mail on Sunday. “We can embark on this new age with confidence and excitement. Over two millenniums since mighty Augustus quelled the unrest and strife in ancient Rome… our auriferous prime minister is bringing in a new era of revitalisation to our nation.”

The prognostications of Mystic Mogg have proved to be crystal balls. His sleazy Caesar has since been dethroned. Unrest is not quelled. Revitalised is not a word anyone is using to describe a nation stricken with strife. This anniversary will be an occasion for Remainers to lament a tragedy foretold and for Brexiters to – well, what exactly will they do? Recant? Some are beginning to confess that they were wrong. More are looking for someone other than themselves to blame.

They won’t want to be reminded of the sunny uplands shimmering with ripening fruits promised by Mr Rees-Mogg and the rest of the Brexit mob’s false prophets. One of their signature pledges was emblazoned on the side of the chariot that bussed Emperor Johnson – never an Augustus, more of a Caligula – around the realm. You will remember his claim that the subs paid to the EU only had to be redirected to the NHS to transform it into a world-envied health service. Strike one. What we actually have is a collapsing NHS.

Another of their boasts was that the UK would “take back control” of its borders. Strike two. Unmanaged migration is not falling, but rising. The most critical promise was that the economy would roar like a liberated lion just as soon as the UK was “unshackled” from the “sclerotic” EU. Strike three. The UK is the sick man of the G7, the only member with an economy that is still smaller than it was before the pandemic.

As for that fabled vista of fantastic exporting opportunities for “Global Britain”, businesses are writhing in all the red tape generated by Brexit while the UK has yet to secure a single better trade deal with a significant partner than we had as members of the EU.

Quitting has not been empowering, but enervating. Every credible study concludes that Brexit has introduced new impediments to prosperity while aggravating pre-existing problems. Our trade has had a feebler recovery from the Covid-induced global slump than comparable countries and the inflationary surge fuelled by the war in Ukraine is sharper on these shores than elsewhere.

The self-harms inflicted by Brexit also include the suppression of investment and shortages of workers in key sectors. Nothing in the Brexit prospectus has survived contact with reality. Never has there been such a bonfire of vanities.

Prognostications of Mystic Mogg were crystal bollocks. Photo: Daniel Leal

Some of the advocates for the project now recognise that it has failed and have begun to admit as much. Alex Hickman, a business adviser at Number 10 during the Johnson premiership, recently wrote: “Those of us who backed Leave must acknowledge that Brexit isn’t working… It is not clear to most people what Brexit is actually for.” Some of the champions of Brexit can see it has been a disaster, but can’t publicly admit it – a category that includes members of the cabinet. The Brexit-supporting Tory peer and boss of Next, Simon Wolfson, is among the many who grizzle that this is “not the Brexit I wanted”.

Even Brexiters know it looks ridiculous to point the finger at recalcitrant “Remoaners” when Brexiters have been running the government for nearly four years. So now they turn the accusation of sabotage on their own gang by blaming the Tories for messing it up by not doing it “properly”, whatever properly is supposed to be. They sound like those ultra-leftists who claim that Marxism only became discredited as a method of government because none of the various experiments with that creed applied it correctly.

Brexiters in denial can’t admit to themselves that a project founded in delusion, marinated in fantasy, riddled with contradictions and marketed with mendacities was never going to “work”. David Cameron walked off the job rather than try. Theresa May spent three miserable years pursuing a mirage. Boris Johnson lied that he had an “oven-ready deal” and then repudiated the agreement he had himself negotiated. Liz Truss sold herself to her party on the basis that she knew where to find the end of the rainbow containing the pot of mythical Brexit treasure. Her excursion to la-la land was so ruinous that she became the briefest prime minister in our history.

The last and craziest hurrah of the Brextremists is the Retained EU Law bill, conceived by the ineffable Mr Rees-Mogg when he was still in the cabinet and Mr Johnson was still at Number 10. This proposes a mass cull of the EU laws that were turned into British law in the haste to get Brexit “done” and to do so by the end of this year – preserving only those laws that ministers choose to keep or adapt. The promoters of this undemocratic, rushed and reckless scheme are the same people who said that we had all the advantages in the withdrawal negotiations, that we would secure a superb deal and that Brexit would be brilliant for Britain.

Now they propose a mission impossible, to review about 4,000 laws, covering everything from environmental protections to consumer rights, in less than a year at a time when the strains on the state are already acute. Business, the trade unions, civil servants and the government’s own assessor agree that it is madness.

This is but the latest example of how government has spent years wrangling dementedly and fruitlessly over how to make Brexit “work”, time and energy that would have been better spent trying to address our shortage of affordable housing, or improving our chronically poor growth rate, or thinking seriously about how to remedy social care. Mr Sunak and the relevant ministers and officials are presently expending a lot of their capacity attempting to negotiate improvements to the Northern Ireland protocol, which Mr Johnson signed not understanding or not caring how much grief it would cause. I wish success to this quest, but any breakthrough must not be mistaken for a triumph. This is a sticking-plaster operation that will not make things lovely, just a bit less awful. It wouldn’t be necessary at all but for Brexit.

The national mood has become one of Bregret. Pollsters report that those who think Brexit has had a negative impact outnumber those who reckon it positive by more than two to one. Six years on from the referendum, a chunky segment of those who supported Leave are suffering buyer’s remorse. A rising majority of the public now say that it was wrong to leave the EU.

The Brexit headbangers apart, everyone at Westminster knows that we need to mitigate the egregious damage that has been inflicted on this country. The likeliest future is one in which the UK incrementally develops a more sensible agreement with its continent and the rock-hard form of Brexit chosen by the Johnson government is gradually adjusted to a version with less jagged edges. That will be inferior to the terms we enjoyed as a member, but better than the dismal state of affairs now. Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, would move in that direction, as probably would Rishi Sunak, but they are stymied by fear of the reaction from the crackpots in their party. A closer relationship with the EU would be the ambition of a government led by Sir Keir Starmer. It is the subtext of the Labour leader’s slogan “make Brexit work”.

That’s a disappointment to those who think that what the UK should really be asking itself is whether there is a way to turn back the clock and return to an EU we should never have left. Another product of Bregret is that pollsters now report that a majority of the public say that, given the choice, they would like to rejoin.

There’s a vanishingly slight chance of that happening in the foreseeable future because, even supposing that the EU would welcome us back, the politics of negotiating re-entry and then holding another referendum are so incredibly difficult. The sad and cruel truth is that strategic blunders as colossal as Brexit can’t be corrected easily or swiftly. Some mistakes have to be paid for over many years. This, alas, is the UK’s fate. Not a golden age, but ages of regret.

NOTE: Andrew Rawnsley is Chief Political Commentator of the Observer.


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4 Responses to Brexit, Lies and Damned Lies

  1. duncanio says:

    A great article by AR and also your foreword GB.

    The similarities between ‘Leave’ and ‘No’ campaigns are startling.

    With regard to Scotland’s dilemma I still do not understand why the broken promises of BT are not set beside their lying outcomes and shoved down people’s throats until they boke. It’s not as if there isn’t enough evidence:

    • EU Membership Guarantee v Brexit
    • HMRC Jobs v Cumbernauld Closures
    • T8 Clyde-built Frigates: 13 Contracts v 8 Orders
    • The Vow v EVEL
    • Home Rule/Federalism/Devo-Max v Smith Commission Whitewash

    That should impact those that have some regret about voting NO in the referendum.

  2. Alastair says:

    Clap for Brexit , foodbanks, austerity and inforced poverty. Clap for Millionares and Billionaires tax avoidance and the trickle down economy. Clap for the stealth privatisation of our NHS. Clap for MPs second jobs and the money they made from corupt lobbyists. Clap for Sturgeons sham SNP and ask why she’s refusing to use the Key. Clap for the quisling administration who bask in our coercive colonialism. Clap for the big Tory Scam of energy the highest electricity of any land. Clap for racism and destruction of our human rights and low wage economy. Clap for the end of what they call Democracy .
    Dissolve the Union.

  3. Howard Cairns says:

    Changes need to happen to get the show on the road again but I am sure you agree with me when I say that Politicians never admit a mistake and they never apologise for the harm they cause, especially Tories but I include most of them.

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