On the 23rd of June last year the electorate didn’t shoot themselves in the foot as some commentators might suggest, but took a sawn-off shotgun and blasted both legs off. One year on from the vote, the benefits of leaving the EU are still yet to come to the fore.
Brexiteers cry that we will take back control of our sovereignty and laws again. However, a House of Commons white paper suggests that throughout our forty-year stay in the European Union, we were a completely sovereign country. The laws so many people detest, of which few can name, were supported by the British on many occasions. Research into British voting habits in the European Council of Ministers show that since 1999, the UK has supported 95% of all laws. Yet, as we leave the EU (and likely the single market), we will actually lose influence on the goods and service regulations we currently abide by, as I shall explain.
Let’s say company A makes children’s toys currently in the UK and sells to other businesses in the EU. This means the safety regulations company A must abide by are set by the European Commission. But, as they are a UK-based business, the employees can lobby their MEPs to vote in favour of legislation which suits them. Once the UK has left the EU, company A continue to sell goods to EU based businesses, possibly at a tariff of 15%, while still adhering to European standards. But the difference this time is that those same employees cannot lobby their MEPs, and so British goods will have to be made to European standards with no British influence of them. The British Standards Institution would be able to set its own standards for British goods sold domestically but would be irrelevant for goods sold in the EU single market.
Immigration was a thorny subject during the debate a year ago, and for many the reason for crossing the Leave box. There is an emotional reason for wanting immigration to end, although it is unfounded. I have always been amazed at an immigrant’s ability to steal one’s jobs and suck the state dry through the benefits system. The rate of unemployment is as low as before the financial crisis in 2008 and David Cameron had managed to get a four-year freeze on benefits for EU nationals entering the UK. Whilst the quality of employment is often debated, this is the fault of poor government policy, not the European immigrants.
It is also debatable how far a Conservative government would be willing to cut immigration numbers. Since 2010, they have pledged to bring down immigration to the tens of thousands and have failed to do so. Leaving the single market, and therefore ending freedom of movement, may give them the means to push this through. However, there’s no reason to think this would happen.
In 2015 immigration to the UK stood at 631,000, with 43% coming from the European Union. That means that 57% came from other sources - why didn’t the Tories reduce this number? The answer is that they’re either incompetent or were never serious about the policy in the first place.
Theresa May was Home Secretary for six years leading up to her promotion to Prime Minister. As Home Secretary, she had the chance to enact policies to curb immigration, but she didn’t. So why would she as Prime Minister? The real reason is that the Tories know immigration is important to the economy and numerous studies have shown this.
So, while David Davis is away in Brussels trying his best to hammer out a deal, which will inevitably be worse than our current EU deal and worse than the sunlit uplands promised by Brexiteers, the government is swallowed up by the enormous task of leaving the European Union.
When you add this to the other concerns of the government, primarily terrorism and dealing with the fallout of the Grenfell Tower disaster, you are left with a government with little bandwidth to carry out its domestic agenda. Combined with a lame duck Prime Minister and a fractured Cabinet, the next few years are unlikely to be plain sailing for the United Kingdom.
The question on any logical person’s lips should be, why are we doing this?
Whilst we should continue on our current course, an ‘exit from Brexit’, as described by Vince Cable, will be necessary to escape the mess we are being lead into. This exit will likely be in the form of another referendum. Polling by Opinium currently shows support for a second referendum at 41% and climbing, while those against are at 48% and falling.
If, at the point of a second referendum, the terms of our departure are supported by the electorate, so be it. Until then, a fight for truth about the real effects of Brexit will continue. Do not expect the ‘Remainers’ to roll over.