It’s been close now to two years since that fateful day in which Britain voted to relinquish its membership of the Union and opt for a “new pathway” which its adherents claimed “would be in the world”. May I say that for as stupid as to how I may appear, I voted for that. I voted for it passionately. May I be more honest in saying I didn’t vote for it because I believed Britain would be “better off” outside of the EU despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I voted for it because it was a convenient vent of political anger against a political elite I felt deeply disillusioned with. The potential of “revolt” felt empowering. The epitome of that fateful night, June 23rd, would nevertheless cut open wounds of deep bitterness and contention between two sides, something has perpetuated on a regular basis across social media for two years now.
Now however, I pose the question. Just what are we fighting for with Brexit? What do we want? Nobody really seems to have an answer to that, but nobody truly ever did. The euphoria of so called “national liberation” and “sovereignty” are nice to things to reflect on, they make some people feel confident, secure and proud, they add meaning, justification and detail to people’s lives, but what baring do they have on the practical realities and needs of life itself? These mere feelings cannot compensate for jobs, for economic growth, for living stanrds, for businesses, none of them. It is as a whole nice to be proud of your country, you should be, but patriotism should never exceed the limits of reason. We need to be pragmatic, we need to be real.
That reality is that the “Nation State” is archaic to the modern world. We are living in an interconnected, global society where people, goods and capital have the capability to move freely like never before. Political and economic issues are not just the responsibility of national parliaments, but they too have an increasingly transnational nature. Countries are increasingly interdependent on each other, interdependent to secure favourable arrangements to economic benefits, to combat issues which do not respect or follow borders, such as climate change, pollution, international crime and so on. But likewise in the context of Brexit and our relationship with Europe, to create conditions which ensure they remain competitive in a global market which is growing, growing and will continue to grow.
In this regard, the European Union has been one of the most successful multi-lateral organisations in the world. It is not a conspiracy to force countries together under the banner of one nation, but it is the pragmatic reality that in order to be successful, European governments need truly each other. Whilst it has a somewhat evangelical element of its own identity and sense of self-righteousness, this is merely an outer shell and trimming for the practical purposes as to why it truly exists. European laws are not an annoying bureaucratic infringement of national rights, but a working consensus of governments to tackle issues on a regional level. It is if you like a forum, it’s far from perfect, it makes mistakes, its policies have in some areas been hurtful to some and caused anger to others, but an intensive focus on issues strives to cloud the bigger, more important picture of what Europe has achieved.
It is true to say at the same time Brexit has not been a “disaster” in the way it was painted in the campaign itself. The rubric of hysteria and scaremongering from the remain campaign and David Cameron was highly unhelpful. Such sensationalism was received emotionally, it only served to consolidate divisions than to educate people on what was at stake. At the same time, it also created a bizarre benchmark that because the process has “not been as bad as predicted” Brexit has been somehow beneficial and successful, but it isn’t. It is true to say there will be no recession or mass unemployment when the day of departure comes, but rather the effects will be more nuanced, subtle and spaced out over a long term basis… here’s how
Firstly, Britain will fall behind Europe and the rest of the world. Already we’re experiencing lower GDP growth. To have rates of around 1.5-1.6% forecasted is not a “Brexit victory” because “uncertainty didn’t cause a recession”, it’s a slowdown which should be judged in relativity to other countries. The Republic of Ireland will grow at 5.7% this year, Germany at 2.1%. As those countries and many others grow faster, we become poorer in relative contrast, economic growth is comparative. We are left behind and in the long run, will pay a noticeably price in terms of what our economy “could have been”.
Secondly, investors prefer a single market of 450 million people to one of 65 million people. If you want to start a business, you want it to be able to reach as many people as possible. The draw of the single market is that you can have free access to any country in Europe without tariffs, the bureaucratic nonsense of visas and so on. But with Brexit, all of that is removed. To invest in Britain as your European base becomes a non-viable option. Paris and Berlin become more attractive centers of commerce and finance than London. We’re already seeing this with the steady trickle of financial jobs from London.
Thirdly, Trump is not an alternative and stop pretending he is. I have said it before, I will say it again, we’re not going to win any favours from a U.S President who is waging trade wars, slapping tariffs on his allies and tearing up every free trade agreement the U.S is a signatory too. Any trade agreement with the U.S cannot replicate the benefits of single market membership, because it would be horrifically one sided, exploitative and solely to their gain not ours. Trump will not be around forever, but do not assume the Democrats would be any willing to offer a better deal because American votes require American jobs. This is a botched fantasy.
If we consider this, what do we want and what do we have to gain from the path we are on? I challenge committed Brexit voters to respond to this with a coherent argument and not lark such as “The Will of People”, “Remoaner”, “We’ll be fine”, or any means of personal abuse which will inevitably follow. The tribalism and pettiness of the Brexit debate has drastically failed to communicate the bigger picture of what is at stake. That of course goes for remainers too, it needs to be less about name-calling and more about facts. We have to drop the emotional and ideational barriers which are preventing us from thinking straight and rational about this issue. I have come to believe Brexit isn’t worth it, whether I would vote to overturn it remains to be seen… but if it is scrapped then I will not bat an eyelid, I am no longer passionate about something which stands to put this country at a self-inflicted disadvantage.