Is Brexit done yet? I feel like it should be. Especially this week of all weeks. We elected a government on a manifesto called “Get Brexit done”. Here we are, nine months later, and it doesn’t feel very “done”.
We’re still negotiating with the EU and getting nowhere. Everyone’s still on about no deal. Politicians are arguing on TV about which Brexit is the right Brexit. It feels like the only difference between this year and last year is that now we’re dealing with a pandemic recession on top of Brexit. The annoying thing is: if we hadn’t voted for the Tories, Brexit would actually have been done this week.
“You can’t be sure Remain would have won.”
Labour was committed to a single market deal that would mean following EU rules without the ability to influence them which we had as EU members. Given a choice between more control in the EU and less control outside, you won’t find many Leave voters who would choose the latter.
“So you would have fixed the result with a deal Brexiteers don’t like.”
Take a look around. Of the three main pro-Brexit parties, the Brexit Party and the DUP both campaigned against Johnson’s withdrawal agreement and now even Johnson opposes it. The government’s rejection of the “level playing field” on competition rules and state aid has stalled the negotiations for months. Now it is trying to break the protocol on Northern Ireland to keep it fully under UK control which risks a hard border across the island of Ireland. Even pro-Brexit MPs are rebelling against this breach of international law. So if even Brexiteers can’t come up with a deal that Brexiteers like, why should Remainers have to?
“But at least we avoided Corbyn.”
The best case scenario Remainers could hope for in that election was a Labour minority government propped up by the SNP and Lib Dems. That coalition would have been held together by the second referendum commitment and that alone, tying Corbyn’s hands. If you were worried about Corbyn veering hard left, ask yourself what the odds were that after stopping Brexit, Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems would have kept supporting Corbyn in a socialist revolution.
“But it would have meant a weaker coalition government during the pandemic crisis.”
You have a point, but England reached the highest excess death rate in all of Europe under a prime minister who told people it was OK to shake hands, against Sage’s advice, while northern Italy was locked down. It’s not a high bar to beat. And even if the voting in the second referendum couldn’t have been done in person or digitally, it could at least have been postponed so that we didn’t have to deal with multiple crises at once.
Instead of finally being done with Brexit today, we just have more chaos.
It’s not just that the people who voted to stop seeing Brexit chaos on the news every day are watching the Tory party in rebellion over whether Brexit should break international law. It’s that Brexit is set to collide with coronavirus in the worst ways. For example, on 31 October the furlough scheme ends, so thousands of employers will need to decide whether they can afford to start paying their staff again, given the UK’s economic outlook.
That’s also the deadline for the Brexit negotiations and, given that the EU is currently threatening to sue us over our decision to break the last deal we signed, no deal seems pretty likely. That means that on the day that millions of jobs depend on employers being optimistic about the UK’s economic outlook, they’ll be told no-deal tariffs and red tape will make us one of the most geographically isolated economies on earth.
Boris Johnson knew that people were desperate to move on from Brexit. That’s why his election campaign promised to “Get Brexit done” and “Take this country forward”, implying they just needed to pass his “oven ready” deal and then we could put Brexit behind us. Instead the chaos is only getting worse in a week when, if that 44 per cent hadn’t voted Conservative, and the will of the 52.7 per cent had been respected, that chaos would have finally been put to bed. This situation is a lot of things. The “will of the people” is not one of them.