Naked Politics Blogger
With the Brexit vote now over a year ago and Article 50 firmly invoked, where are we now with Brexit? My answer is simple: I don’t know.
We may know less now than we did 12 months ago as we are not even sure who our Prime Minister will be during the two year negotiating period. One thing is certain: this is not a strong and stable Brexit.
From a Westminster standpoint we have the Labour party who are as divided as ever about what Brexit is and what it looks like. During the recent election campaign Corbyn ruled out remaining in the single market in order to avoid scaring off Leave voters. However, at the same time Labour frontbenchers fumbled over one another to deliver opaque messages on their party’s post-Brexit immigration policy.
Whilst the Tories deliver bold public speeches about strength and defiance, they are making quiet concessions on matters such as the divorce bill and the possibility of a transitional period.
On the other hand, the Liberal Democrat’s pro-EU stance failed to rejuvenate Remain voters in many constituencies. Their offer of a second referendum may have worked in a few by-elections with angry Remainers but the simple truth is that Brexit was this election’s passenger, rather than the driver.
Despite May’s repeated attempts to make this the Brexit election, she actually gave little away about her plans for Britain and its future outside the EU. Labour were able to shift the agenda to policing cuts, the NHS and social care, much to the misery of those looking for clarity on Brexit.
Although Theresa May was right to ask recently for cross-party recommendations and support on a number of issues including Brexit, it was painfully obvious that she only did this to remain in No.10. In an ideal world, May would listen to the ideas of other parties because she wanted their advice, rather than because she needed it.
Brexit is a political anomaly. We were promised control over our own laws, yet the Repeal Bill simply transfers EU laws into British ones. We were offered £350 million a week for our public services, but alas Boris Johnson clearly did not intend for that money to be spent on public sector wages. We were also assured that Brexit would not mean a business and jobs exodus from our shores, however this was only possible with a secret bribe for Nissan and further such back-handed deals will be needed in order to prevent Paris from taking jobs from the city. The financial services industry is not the only sector affected by Brexit; nursing has seen a 96% drop in applications from the EU, showing that Brexit is an all-economy consuming issue.
The public mood may be shifting against Brexit, but opinion polls can never be placed above a national referendum, especially considering the recent shortcomings in the polling industry. However, that does not mean that in time another referendum could not take place, possibly after the terms of the negotiation have been agreed. The door is still open to Britain to remain in the EU, and Donald Tusk is certainly not the only dreamer.
The EU will not allow a pick ‘n’ mix Brexit and has been very clear that there will be no special treatment of the UK, in case other member states seek the same kind of treatment. The stark reality of Brexit is being slowly revealed. Some refuse to see the grim corpse that we are becoming, but many others dread the outcome. Some, like me, hope that somehow this matter can be resolved with as little pain to British workers as possible.
On the continent David Davis is finding his European counterparts stern but accommodating. If Britain accepts its share of responsibility for funding projects then it may be lucky enough to conduct a smooth-ish Brexit. But if there’s too much table banging and if rumours of the UK negotiating team walking away from the table in October are true, then I think we should expect a less amicable separation.
Earlier I asked where we are now. On June 23rd 2016, many Leave voters voted for a new beginning, with the hope and promise of a better life outside the EU. On June 9th 2017, many voters voted for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party for a new beginning, with the hope and promise of a better life after austerity and seven years of Tory rule.
So, perhaps that’s where we are: in a nation where voters are craving change. Sometimes any change is better than the status quo; people from all ends of the political spectrum are searching for a new message, a new banner in which they can fight under, for a better and more prosperous life. Change that is worth fighting for.