Bremain Chair Sue Wilson MBE takes a look back at the first year of Brexit in an article for The Olive Press:
The festivities are behind us, and for good or bad, we “got Christmas done”. If only the same could be said for Brexit. Not only is Brexit not “done” but it appears to be rather different to the one the country was promised. It does not do what it says on the side of the tin, or in this case, on the side of a bus.
I’m minded to write a letter to the government’s complaint department – yes, they do have one, I checked – but I think they might be rather overwhelmed at the moment dealing with other dissatisfied customers. Assuming, of course, that they are not all at a party, gathering or meeting.
Whether you voted for or against leaving the EU, there are few that can be happy with the outcome. In fact, public opinion has shifted considerably over the last 12 months, with only 14% of the British public now thinking Brexit is going well. Farmers and fishermen are suffering buyers’ remorse, businesses are concerned about lack of investment and staff and a mountain of red tape, and prices are rising. That’s before the UK have even implemented full customs checks on EU imports. We have yet to see what a full-on Brexit will actually even look like. I think we can be sure it won’t be pretty.
Still, new year, new day, and it’s not all bad news, right? As the first Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said back in October 2016, “there will be no downsides to Brexit at all, and considerable upsides”. He may have been proved slightly wrong about the downsides, but those upsides are SO worth it! Australian wine is going to be 20p a bottle cheaper to import, and who drinks European wine anyway? British fisherman will be able to catch more fish in five years time, assuming they haven’t gone out of business by then. A popular favourite will be the return of imperial measures. Not only will Brits be able to drink pints of beer out of pint glasses again (did they ever stop doing that?), but Champagne is going to be served in pint bottles! I’m not entirely sure the French have been told about this development as yet, but I’m sure they’ll be only too happy to change productions lines just for us. And let’s not forget blue/black passports – the first passport in history to reduce our ability to travel.
Even those responsible for negotiating and implementing Brexit are not faring well. We’re already two Prime Ministers down, and the current incumbent’s position is looking a tad insecure. Then we have the Brexit Ministers – to lose one Brexit Secretary would have been bad enough. To lose four in five years is starting to look like carelessness. Or possibly, even the most devoted Brexit advocates just can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, no matter how much sovereignty they sprinkle on top.
The latest development saw Lord Frost toddle off into the sunlit uplands/the House of Lords, perhaps to sign up for anger management classes. Frosty the No-Man has become Frosty the Go-Man, to be replaced by wearer of many hats, and many contradictory opinions, Liz Truss. As a former staunch Remainer, and even a Lib-Dem, we can only hope that Truss will take a less belligerent approach to Brexit negotiations, though first appearances would suggest otherwise. Still, in the spirit of New Year, I’d like to suggest a few resolutions she might wish to consider.
Firstly, she could break the habit of her predecessors, learn how the EU functions, and stop treating our European neighbours as the enemy. The role of a negotiator or diplomat, is to be well, diplomatic. Another step forward would be to end the threats and honour international agreements the UK signed up to. The EU can hardly be blamed for Brexit failing to live up to the rose-tinted promises of many a PM and Brexit Minister.
My biggest wish would be for the return of all that Brexit has stolen from us – our rights as EU citizens; our international standing and reputation for honesty, decency and tolerance; and a return to our place as a global economic power.
Brexit isn’t done – it’s not even close. But it is bonkers – for the economy, for jobs, for prices and for business. Brexit was mis-sold, and the country would like its deposit back please.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A closer, more efficient, economically viable relationship with the EU is not only possible, it’s worth fighting for. I’ll be happy to raise a 0.473 glass of Champagne to that any day of the week! In the meantime, maybe it’s time to send off my letter of complaint and ask for my money back.