Bremainers Ask……  Prof. Chris Grey

Bremainers Ask…… Prof. Chris Grey

Chris Grey is Emeritus Professor of Business and Management Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He previously held professorships at Warwick and Cambridge Universities. Since 2016 he has written the Brexit & Beyond Blog, and he is the author of Brexit Unfolded. How no one got what they wanted (and why they were never going to). His work on Brexit has been widely cited in the media and by governmental bodies, and he has given expert evidence to the Scottish Parliament on the Brexit trade negotiations

Ruth Woodhouse : Why is it that the Tories will not acknowledge the damage caused by Brexit and that it has been a failure? Is it really just a case of not losing face? Similarly, why will Labour not acknowledge the reality?

For Tories (assuming we are talking about MPs), I think there are some diehards who genuinely still think it was the right thing to do and, to the extent they see its problems, genuinely believe they are because it wasn’t done properly. Others, I’m sure, who once thought it was a good idea, secretly realise what a mistake they have made. Still others never supported it. But, apart from any psychological barriers to admitting what a failure it has been, there are huge political pressures not to. The Conservative Party, and especially its local membership organisations, is very different even to what it was in 2016. Criticising Brexit would be the death knell of their careers now: it would be the equivalent of a Labour MP saying the NHS should be abolished. As regards Labour and Brexit, I’ll fold that question in with Steve Wilson’s, below.


Steve Wilson : The Labour Party insists it can make Brexit work. Is that really possible and do you think they will shift their position once in power?

Making Brexit work is simply a slogan to signal that Labour accepts it isn’t going to be reversed and there will not be another referendum, along with a commitment to try to improve the Johnson deal. Is that possible (within Labour’s constraints on the single market, etc.)? Yes, in marginal, though not trivial, ways. In a general way, a more harmonious and trusting relationship is possible. That may sound vague, but it’s important. Specifically, a dynamic alignment deal on sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) is possible, and, if done, that would also set a precedent for cooperation that entailed an ECJ role, most obviously as regards security, but also possibly things like linking the EU and UK chemicals regulation (REACH) and carbon import (CBAM) regimes. A mobility deal of some sort could be done, and the UK might participate in Erasmus. There are good reasons to think that the EU would agree on SPS and security, while its agreement on mobility, Erasmus, REACH and CBAM, though less clear, looks possible. Is this Labour facing the reality of Brexit? Well, yes, to the extent that it is the most that it believes is realistic in terms of both domestic and EU politics. Does it repair the damage of Brexit? No, not by a long way.

What, if anything, could Rejoin campaigners do differently to improve their chances of success?

A while back, I did a list of Dos and Don’ts on my blog. This is a heavily edited version (see here for the full thing):


Keep going … it is going to be a long haul.
Keep pointing to the failures of Brexit. That may be negative, and, ultimately, the campaign case for rejoining needs to be positive, but we are not in that campaign yet.
Be prepared for support for rejoin and opposition to Brexit to fluctuate in the opinion polls.
React positively to leave voters who openly express regret.
Avoid getting tangled in issues about whether rejoining means joining the Euro, or Schengen, or what it would mean for budget contributions.
Configure the issue as ‘joining’ rather than ‘rejoining’: it’s about the future, not resurrecting the past. Both the UK and the EU will be different.



Keep banging on about the 2016 Referendum having ‘only been advisory’ or how ‘only 37% of the electorate voted to leave’.
Assume that individual EU politicians saying that the UK is welcome back any time it is ready is the same as that being the position of the EU or its members.
Dismiss any progress short of rejoining as a waste of time.


Anon : Do you think the result of the forthcoming election will be as bad for the Tories as generally predicted, or could they claw their way back into power?

Predictions are a mug’s game … so here goes! I think it will be closer than the current opinion polls suggest but, barring something big and unexpected, I think they will lose, simply because there is a general mood, among those who are not much interested in politics as well as those who are, that their time is up. That can be analysed in all kinds of sophisticated ways but, sometimes, politics really is as simple as that indefinable but tangible mood. Labour’s task in government is to convert that into something which becomes seen as an ideological sea-change – I say ‘becomes’, because it’s really only in retrospect that those judgements get made. That’s why, in and of itself, Labour’s current caution doesn’t tell us anything either way about whether it is going to oversee such a sea-change.



Susan Scarrott : With all the various factions and continual infighting, are the Tories finished?

It would be far too bold to say that they are finished but, assuming they lose the election, it seems all but inevitable that they will lurch to the populist right and pull themselves apart with battles over purity and true belief. How long that will go on for is hard to say – I suspect at least until they have lost another general election, maybe two. But whether they do that also depends on how a Labour government performs.

Lisa Burton : Your Brexit Blog ‘Brexit and Beyond’ is highly valued by many. Did you imagine it would turn into the immense piece of work it has become, and how long do you intend on keeping it going?

Thanks for your kind words. No, I never expected it to become what it has. I really only started it, in September 2016, for a kind of ‘personal therapy’, and at first it had very few readers. Then, I started using Twitter to publicise it – that was February 2017 – and it suddenly got picked up, by lucky chance, by a few high-profile people. Very quickly the readership expanded to many tens of thousands a week, including just about every journalist covering Brexit around the world, and politicians from every party in the UK (including several prominent Brexiters) and many in the EU, plus many in the EU’s negotiating team, diplomats, thinktank people, etc. 

Its popularity has slightly declined in the last couple of years, but not by much. All that is good, but it has put pressure on me to keep writing it regularly, and to a decent standard. I’m well aware that its profile means that if I make, say, some serious error of fact, I could get pounced on. Anyway, I’m proud of it, and especially of the fact that many people say it will become a resource for historians. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is true there is nothing quite like it as a contemporaneous record of what has happened. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep going, but I’ve no immediate plans to stop. It has become a labour of love!


Anon : The Tories have made so many assaults on British democracy and have avoided transparency. Is there a particular assault on British values that stands out for you?

So many to choose from, as you say. I suppose the Prorogation was the most direct assault on democracy, but at least it was ruled unlawful. The most grotesque thing, to me, was the Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ headline. It was disgusting and totalitarian in its formulation and implication. OK, that was done by a newspaper, not the Tory Party, but it should have been unequivocally condemned by every single Government minister including the then PM Theresa May. In fact, shortly afterwards, its author (who also, reportedly, wrote the actual headline) was appointed by May as her official spokesperson.

Next month

Formerly the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrat Party, Lord Rennard was elevated to the House of Lords in 1999. He was Director of Campaigns and Elections for the Liberal Democrats from 1989 to 2003 and Chief Executive of the Party from 2003 to 2009. If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please email us at no later than Saturday 9 March.

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Hopes and Fears for 2024

Bremainers Ask Revisited – Hopes and Fears for 2024

Gina Miller: I fear the damage Brexit delusion is doing to our country, but election year brings real hope

Since the United Kingdom left the European Union at the start of this decade, the inevitable cost and disruption that comes with Brexit reality and the UK being a third country are coming home to roost, post-pandemic.

Full border checks on EU imports have been delayed five times – but come the end of this month, Brexit Britain must face the music. New border controls on animal and plant products have been dressed up by Ministers as a new-and-improved “Border Trade Operating Model”. Yet, according to Sky News, the changes will cost businesses £330m a year, on top of considerable additional costs for energy, staff, overheads and supplies during 2023.

Nearly half of SMEs are saying they’re spending 20-60% more than in 2022. Additionally, the Energy Bill Discount Scheme is set to end in March 2024, which will only make things worse with even higher bills, as the energy crisis is set to continue due to global uncertainty. These additional costs will inevitably be reflected in shopping baskets.

This is my first fear for 2024 – that a Britain already struggling with a prolonged and bitter cost of living crisis will be uniquely subject to more hardship as the Brexit damage deepens.

The Red Sea crisis has thrown international shipping into havoc, resulting in us experiencing the greatest challenge to global supply chains since the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2021 disruption of the Suez Canal. The prices charged for containers transporting an estimated 12% of global trade, worth more than $1tn (£790bn), via longer routes will have a huge knock-on effect on many goods. Companies as diverse as Tesla, Electrolux, IKEA, and Volvo are all ringing alarm bells – many are already halting production.

Add in the severe drought affecting the Panama Canal, the war in Ukraine, curtailed grain shipments via the Black Sea, and more frequent extreme weather, and I, like many, am left in fear of the impact on global supply chains.

The urgency to adapt and reroute not only comes with serious financial consequences – but also dramatic environmental impacts. Increases in shipping traffic, leading to severe changes in underwater noise, will affect fish stocks and marine mammals. Before the Red Sea crisis, if shipping was a country, it would be the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide. Now, ships coming from Asia to Europe and the UK are being rerouted around the southern tip of Africa, emitting more carbon dioxide. Emissions will also be increased as manufacturers turn to more air freight.

The EY ITEM Club, a leading UK economic forecasting group, now says there is a “good chance” that the UK slipped into a technical recession at the end of 2023 – meaning we had two negative quarters in a row. While the reality of this will be confirmed to be true, or not, in February when the official GDP data is posted – it comes as no surprise.

In these circumstances, our country can no longer afford the delusion and conceit that there are Brexit benefits. The evidence that Brexit is costing the UK around £100 billion a year due to our economy being 4% smaller than it would have been following pre-Brexit trends is undeniable. UK business investment is growing 19% more slowly than the G7 average, with the negative impacts of Brexit predicted to gradually escalate, reaching some 5-6% of GDP, or about £2,300 per capita by 2035.

Another fear is that people blame the entire political system for the crisis they are experiencing. That mistrust and apathy leads to voters either staying at home or being attracted by populist propaganda, as we’re seeing with the Reform Party.

I set up the True & Fair Party to tell it as it is on Brexit, on political reform and the necessity of a health and happiness economy centred on wellbeing. To bridge the growing division permeating through our conversations, communities, and country.

The increased support we are getting, particularly in our top target constituency of Epsom and Ewell, is giving me hope for 2024.

Covid has muddied the waters in terms of damage to the UK, but the pandemic also delayed the harm of leaving the union. And there is no denying real harm is being done to almost every sector. The Britain that gifted Boris Johnson a thumping majority in 2019 is no longer the Britain we live in. The wave of post-Brexit delusion he rode is crashing on the rocks of reality.

Many people now know they were sold a pup – election day will be judgement day. With the polls consistently at between 58%-63% to rejoin the European Union (close to 70% if you strip out the over 65s), I am hopeful that the next election will result in a Government that recognises that Britain’s place is back inside the EU.

The Liberal Democrats and large parts of the Labour Party are alive to this reality. They know it in their hearts, but they dare not speak their mind. The True & Fair Party is here to give a voice to voiceless voters who say it’s time to end the pretence and start on the road to rejoin.

Even one True & Fair seat in Parliament after the next election would strike an enormous blow against Brexit and keep the flame for rejoining well and truly alive.

Achieving that is my overriding hope for 2024. If you want Britain back around the top table in Europe, join with me to make it happen.


Prof. Juliet Lodge: My hopes for 2024

Peace. Gentleness. Fairness. Equity. Tolerance. An end to poverty and tyranny. Political honesty. Governments respecting and serving citizens and upholding international law.

Looking just at the UK, evidence that Tory Brexit has busted Britain inundates us daily. I hope that we recall the relative calm of life pre-2016 and recognise that we neither have to continue to expect and accept misgovernment, nor shrug off emerging evidence of tawdry mismanagement, complacent, socially uncaring, lazy, ignorant and arrant incompetence, ministerial lies and depraved bungocracy. We did better then and we can do better in 2024.

My hopes for 2024 include us learning from and working with our EU partners, contributing to democratic renewal domestically and building democratic resilience in the reforming EU. We share the EU’s hopes and investment in combating disinformation, and commitment to frustrate foreign interference and corrupt players gaming democracy with malign intent.

I hope that critical reflection can triumph over the fake certainties implied by binary black or white options, and the lure of automated, inevitably biased decisions. 2024 must start the process to end the deprivation imposed by limiting choice, whether by biased humans or by big online platforms. Choice must be shared and cherished so we can try to be innovative in trying to realise a better world, not least for our younger generations and children. Wouldn’t we welcome the EU Childrens’ Participation Platform and efforts to ensure equality for all, no matter how challenging?

Only vandals would drag us out of the ECHR, so I hope that 2024 will see the UK electing a Government of integrity, willing to face the need to be a sane, safe, trustable, tolerant, fair, empathetic, constructive, ethical and forward-looking player on the world stage. One committed to realising the best for ordinary people. One informed enough to understand that kindness, commitment to upholding human rights, sustaining the rights we had in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and boosting a welfare state, is not weakness but a sign of a mature society.

I hope that the UK, like the EU, will act on the need for constitutional change and reform; that a UK Government will have the vision to include proportional representation in its aspirations for a fair society; that it will show understanding and realism over Northern Ireland; and that it will be courageous and bold enough to insist on the swift restoration of rights scammed from us all, unions, women and children since Brexit.

I want the deceit over the UK’s need to adhere to high EU standards, and to be in the customs union and the single market to end and be replaced by openness over why mutual removal of physical, technical and virtual borders between the UK and EU were realised in the first place: we all benefit from the four freedoms of movement of goods, services, capital and people. The disingenuous stupidity of the Conservatives’ divisive hostile environment perverts what the UK is and can again be.

People in the EU value EU citizenship and are more aware of its benefits, as are we, as the loss of it hits home, harming the lives of those with family across the EU and our ability to travel around Europe unencumbered by border delays. I hope 2024 will see the restoration of mutual freedom of movement between the EU and UK for families, and for anyone wanting to enjoy the advantages of ErasmusPlus. There is much we could learn from the EU to become more equal and inclusive. There is much we could choose to do together to combat those exploiting immigration from countries outside the EU.

There is also a great deal we could learn from the EU on AI and valuing and protecting individual rights, privacy, autonomy and integrity. We cannot afford morally, let alone economically, to deviate from EU standards, norms and values.

Like so many of us across Europe, I hope for open, humane, climate-protecting Governments of conscience, committed to facilitating public participation, public understanding of how societies work, and using public money for the public good and community.

A general election in the UK before the Euro-elections to the European Parliament in June would be welcome.

I hope 2024 brings and entrenches ethical Government by design and default in the UK and EU as the norm not the exception.


Peter Corr: My biggest hope for 2024, year of elections, is that my fears don’t actually come true.

Watching progress towards Rejoin has been satisfying, although also frustrating. Seeing the polling numbers slowly but surely increase for Rejoin, while simultaneously, politicians going backwards. Such as Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats joining Starmer in pretending Brexit can work, or that people aren’t talking about Brexit anymore, while all the things he claims they are talking about are directly caused by or made worse by Brexit. I want to see this Government gone, but it’s really hard to consider supporting other politicians who are also clearly lying to our faces to get into power.

The Tories have gone full batshit, to paraphrase a certain MP. Or have they? I believe the Rwanda farce has one goal and that is to force ‘leaving the ECHR’ onto the agenda. They could even put it in their manifesto, and make the whole election about it. Like a crap sequel to the Brexit election of 2019. Would enough of the country fall for that? I don’t think so, but I also never believed we’d vote for Brexit, so maybe I’m not the best judge. One of my biggest fears is definitely the thought that the crazy policies this lot have been coming out with lately could be given an actual mandate.

Over in the land of guns, it seems more and more likely by the day that Trump will win the election. What will that mean for the war happening in Europe right now? The EU should hurry up and fast-track Ukraine’s membership before then if that’s possible. As a side note, if it is possible, I don’t see why the UK rejoining can’t also be fast-tracked. Just a thought. I think Trump winning would have serious implications for NATO, Ukraine, Palestine and, well, the whole world. Another of my biggest fears.

With World War III being openly discussed by military experts and the media, along with even conscription – I think this should be a fear for all of us. Would I be comfortable, as a veteran myself, seeing either of my children being conscripted into the forces? Absolutely not. War is never the answer. But if it were not a choice, I would genuinely rather see them be conscripted into an EU Army than the British Army led by our own lying politicians. And that includes a government led by Starmer.

So, with dark news wherever you turn, it’s more important than ever to positively campaign for our hopes in 2024. That’s what we’ll be doing at National Rejoin March, which continues to grow and gain traction, both online and offline. It’s giving people hope and giving me hope. The team and everyone I meet along the journey helps me forget the Ed Daveys, the Sunaks and the Trumps of the world. My biggest hope of 2024, apart from for my fears not coming true, is that our collective hope will begin to translate into action by our politicians.

n the February newsletter we will be featuring Prof. Chris Grey who is Emeritus Professor of Business and Management Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. Since 2016 Chris has been writing the Brexit & Beyond Blog, and he is the author of Brexit Unfolded.

If you would like to submit any questions for Chris for consideration, please email them to no later than Wednesday 7 February.