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The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is a miserable sod. He likes to have a moan. He tackles subjects which many foreigners living in Spain agree with but are too polite to say anything.

Brexit Three Years On
Friday, February 3, 2023 @ 10:53 PM

We have just “celebrated” the anniversary of 'Brexit day', three years since the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020. The Curmudgeon, a devout Remainer, sums up some of the Press talk floating around at the end of last month.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) chose to mark Brexit day by publishing a report that said the UK was the only country in the G7 whose economy would shrink this year. Worse even than Russia, and we weren’t even hit by sanctions or engaged in a major war.

Brexit is a ‘complete disaster’ and ‘total lies’, says former Tory donor and private equity veteran Guy Hands, a leading City figure, says Boris Johnson ‘threw the country and the NHS under the bus’.

Speaking on the third anniversary of the UK’s departure from the EU, Hands, the founder, chair and chief investment officer of the private equity firm Terra Firma, said: “It’s been a complete disaster. The reality is it’s been a lose-lose situation for us and Europe. Europe has lost more [in financial services] but we’ve lost as well. And the reality of Brexit was, it was just a bunch of complete and total lies.

“The only way that the Brexit put forward by Boris Johnson was going to work was if there was a complete deregulation of the UK and we moved to a sort of Liz Truss utopia of a Singapore state and that was just never going to happen,” Hands, a former donor to the Conservative party, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Guy Hands founded the private equity firm Terra Firma

Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

“The British population was never going to accept a state in which the NHS would be demolished, where free education would be severely limited, where regulation with regard to employment would be thrown apart. It was just complete and total absolute lies.”

He added: “The biggest issue about it, and you can take the Brexit bus as a good example, is the lies that Boris Johnson and the Conservative party told about the NHS. In fact, what they did was throw the country and the NHS under the bus.”

According to the polling expert John Curtice, on average polls now suggest that 57% people in the UK would vote to rejoin the EU.

The Brexit anniversary marks three years of political mayhem and economic calamity.

Ironically, it is also 50 years since Britain joined the European Economic Community, the fore-runner of the European Union.

Ten years ago this month, David Cameron made his shameless speech pledging a referendum to placate his party and Ukip-ers, who he had previously called “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists”.

Cameron wrongly thought Brexiteers could be appeased, but they proved insatiable. The more harm their Brexit does, the more extreme versions they demand, chasing those impossible phantasms they mis-sold to the country.

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee wrote on Tuesday: “ ‘Remoaner’ was a clever Brexit epithet for the 48% of us who voted remain. The heartbreak of this act of national self-harm left Remainers keening in grief, in a long moan for the loss of an ideal, along with certain economic decline.

“With the sorrow there was rage, white-hot and vengeful, against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust”.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, last week promised there would be a civilised friendship with Europe under a Labour government.

There was talk of reconnecting “a tarnished UK” with its closest allies, “for security and prosperity”; “reducing friction” on trade; unblocking the Horizon schemestrengthening student links and pledging a “clean power alliance”.

"But there is to be no rejoining, no way back to the customs union or single market," Labour says, so as to deny Tory strategists what they yearn for: a re-run of Brexit at the next general election to distract from the economy, the cost of living crisis and collapsed public services.

The pollster John Curtice says that 57% of people are in favour of rejoining, with just 43% for staying out. 49% think Brexit weakens the economy.

Toynbee continues: “Remainer grief eases at signs of a country reuniting against the liars who pulled off this trick. But it’s rash to imagine that even a 14-point lead means a pro-EU referendum would be won: we know what referendums do”.

But, is it not fair to suppose that egocentric Britain forgets that Brussels, with a war on its doorstep and its own economic woes, might shun yet more negotiations with the UK.

Let’s not forget the MEPs and envoys we insulted. The spite and mendacity spread by the likes of Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan in the European Parliament or (Sir) David Frost across the negotiating table.

Hannan, the ex-MEP and arch-purveyor of Brexit fabrications, is trying to scare defecting Brexit voters back. “There really does seem to be a plot to overturn Brexit,” he warns Telegraph readers in an article.

He uses Lammy’s speech as evidence, plus Labour’s resistance to the EU deregulation law. “There is little doubt the Europhile blob is giving it a go,” he writes, “to hold Britain within the EU’s regulatory orbit pending an attempt at re-entry.”

He also warns: “For their plan to have the slightest chance of success, they need to convince the country that Brexit has been an economic disaster.”

Well, that shouldn’t be too difficult, Daniel! It has been and still is an unmitigated and self-inflicted catastrophe.

Look what Brexit has ‘achieved’:

  • a 4% shrinkage in long-run productivity relative to remaining in the EU, expects the Office for Budget Responsibility;
  • inflation and energy prices are higher than in the EU
  • trade has fallen by almost a fifth;
  • while the government itself says the much-trumpeted Australian deal will raise GDP by less than 0.1% a year by 2035;
  • Brexit has raised food prices by 6% says the London School of Economics;
  • the workforce has been drained.

Did you know that Eurostar deliberately leaves a third of seats empty due to crippling EU/UK border delays?

The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front.

All that is why Prof. Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, says that “Bregret is taking hold in Britain” with only one in five thinking Brexit is going well.

Brexiters are now in the minority.


Light at the end of the tunnel

A movement that started around the same time as we left the EU, Stay European, is a continuing pro-EU campaign for all of us who still feel European and are not going to give up.

Stay European has always been optimistic about the prospects of the UK rejoining the EU. Yet right now, the popularity of Rejoin is running ahead of even our expectations.
In 2020, Stay European expected that there would be a long road ahead in slowly persuading Britain of the benefits of EU membership. Support for Rejoin was not a majority in polls at the time – though it was a strong base, above 40%.

They simply did not expect that Rejoin would be polling an average of 58% by early 2023.

They cautiously predicted that the economic impact of Brexit would start to change minds. Yet we did not predict that soon a prime minister, Liz Truss, would drive the economy off a cliff, sparking a UK-only financial crisis that caused a rapid shift in public opinion.

Back then, the group thought that the next general election might result in a narrow defeat for the Tories. Whilst it would be foolish to count our chickens before they have hatched, the polls have clearly stabilised in a position where the government is facing a landslide defeat.

And in the past year especially, Rejoin has shifted bit by bit from being an outsider bet to being discussed even by Brexiters as a serious likelihood, with the Brexit-supporting Daily Telegraph saying "Britain is going to rejoin the EU far sooner than anyone now imagines".

Shifting sands

Now, on one level this can also be frustrating. A spokesman from Stay European says: “If Rejoin is coming down the tracks, why are the political parties still so slow to shift? Why is the media still stuck in 2016? Why does something with majority support still feel somehow 'niche'?”

But The Curmudgeon thinks we should take heart. All the shifts mentioned are continuing. Support for Rejoin continues to grow, up into the high 50s and breaking out over 60% now in some polls. Politicians are slow but will have to adapt.

Rejoin's support continues to rise. If you count from the end of the transition period instead of the formal leaving date, Britain has only been fully feeling Brexit's effects for just over two years. Brexit's popularity still has plenty of room to fall further.

Stay European is still here, having laid a solid base for its campaign, and that campaign is still growing. As Rejoin support spreads Stay European is proud to be part of the early days of a new movement. “The Rejoin campaign has begun,” they say.

“We believe we are on track to rejoin the EU by 2030. However long is still it takes, though, our campaign will continue. Be part of it”.


John Curtice

Prof Matthew Goodwin

The Guardian

Guy Hands

Stay European

Polly Toynbee


© The Curmudgeon

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