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Road To Nowhere - Brexit


On reading Solzhenitsyn’s short novel One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich (based on the author’s experiences incarcerated in Stalin’s labour camps), a loudly dressed lady with a gold ring said, “I don’t like this story, it’s too depressing.” A former inmate replied, “It’s better to have the bitter truth than a sweet lie.”

Brexiteers claim that the ‘project fear’ campaign launched by the government to defend membership was total fiction. Now whilst some of the claims were exaggerated in describing short-term detrimental affects, the ultimate bitter truth was accurate and, even before the UK has left the EU, some of those issues described are now being felt. But the worst is yet to come.


I once witnessed a Barbara Castle speech when she described habitual voters for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories as being, “caught like frozen rabbits in the glare of headlights.” Both major political parties seem unable and/or powerless to halt the madness, and even the most ardent critics seem to be caving in to the government, one by cowardly one. Most ordinary voters had no idea of the real and wider implications of leaving the EU but the reality is slowly beginning to dawn with each glacially paced step towards a conclusion (which seems increasingly likely to be ‘no deal’). The referendum result was ‘advisory’ while the magnitude of the decision can hardly be true and fair when many interested parties were not allowed to vote (the young, existing UK EU residents and overseas UK nationals) and the final result was far too close.

And yet here we are.


Industry has been too slow to respond publicly to the threats of Brexit to their future (and critically important) commercial strategies (in an increasingly competitive commercial world) but at last British Aerospace and others have now gone public with the all too predictable Brexiteer response of ‘fear peddling’. The huge BAE Beluga aircraft that carries Airbus wings over to France flies low over my home several times a day so I am all too aware of the ramifications of a poor or no-deal scenario, and the major decisions that business large and small face in the short to medium term. I also fear for the effect on cultural and scientific activities.

Tory ministers and Brexit-supporting MPs claim that the UK’s trade with the EU is declining as a proportion of total trade but what they don’t tell you is that much of this external trade is due to the agreements made by the EU with non-EU countries. In addition, comparisons of market share are fatuous as they are comparing fairly mature commercial states with those that are at the early stages of growth. Currently the UK trades with all countries including the USA with which it enjoys a positive balance but what the Brexiteers won’t tell you is that by eventually that positive balance will change dramatically as agricultural product is allowed in tariff-free. The UK already deals with other major trading partners including China, India and South America where any negation of trade tarriffs will lead to a worsening trade imbalance with little or no positive benefits. In fact tariff-free cheap goods will cause both unfair and damaging consequences to UK businesses.


As sure as night follows day, the UK is headed for disaster but in the knowledge of the true ramifications of a no-vote, would we have found ourselves in this position? I doubt it. The Labour party is terrified of losing core voters especially from the North-East of the country (who will as a region suffer most from withdrawal) and in response have declared a non-committal and unworkable solutions. Northern Ireland’s DUP party, who are keeping the Tory government afloat, are prime Brexiteers in sharp contrast with their population who voted over 60% to remain.

Tories proudly proclaim (while mocking critics) that they have successfully negotiated the opening phases regarding EU citizen rights and a transition period. However, without a deal over the customs union in relation to Northern Ireland, there are still no deals. And remember that the UK reversed its initial policy of not paying the EU any money but had to cave in with £40 million payment before anything was agreed.

The future looks bleak.

With the government now able to ‘deal or no deal’ (helped by the retreat of Tory and Labour anti-Brexiteers during the last Withdrawal vote) and the EU sure to fight to protect the greater good (i.e. the health and prosperity of its remaining 27 member states), the UK will not get close to the benefits currently enjoyed with EU membership. So a poor or no-deal is the realistic prospect unless those who are supposed to represent our best interests put politics aside and stop this debacle.


Theresa May recently announced a major annual financial commitment for the National Health Service naming ‘the Brexit Dividend’ (the previous net annual payments made to the EU) as a partial source of NHS funding. However, with the substantial departure payment already agreed, the continuing fee payments during the minimum  2-year transition period (which could last much longer) and other UK spending commitments (after 10 years of major cut-backs) a Brexit financial dividend is pure fantasy.

How can it be that the UK government still has no defined trading position with so little time left to complete EU negotiations? The reason I believe is two-fold. Firstly, there are such deep divides in her cabinet that cannot in reality be overcome. Secondly, the external negotiation advisors, in the sure knowledge that the EU hold all the cards (especially when it was the UK who chose to depart), have advised the government that it should create ’solid’ red lines and long delays which may frustrate the EU into making late agreements in the UK’s favour.

This will not happen.

In fact the strategy will backfire as it already has with the 2 ‘agreements’ made thus far (final resident and transition terms still depend on the UK agreeing to an acceptable customs arrangement in relation to the Irish border question, and Gibralter). May and her cabinet are playing games where the only loser will be UK industry, people and most especially the country’s younger generation. There is a gathering storm of decreasing industrial investment and growth, Labour party gradually realising the negative implications of their neutral stance, and a rising swell of public opinion supporting a second referendum on the final negotiated terms.

The future is bleak.


A potential economically harmful influx of cheap imports, the invaluable loss/diminution of free-trade with our nearest EU customers (and EU negotiated free-trade agreements with many non-EU countries), higher costs of trading (and increasing inefficiencies) with our EU neighbours, the decrease of desperately needed skilled and casual labour from the EU, increased travelling complexities and costs for both UK and EU citizens, diminution of trading negotiation clout (with the loss of over 450 million bargaining consumers), a significant decrease in GDP and available finance for UK public services. The list goes on…

Is this what MPs and the UK public voted for?

Brexiteers said it would be easy and the dividends substantial. They said that the EU would have to come to a favourable agreement because of the existing major trade benefits for countries like Germany and France. They said that the UK would save billions each year. They said that many new overseas free-trade agreements would be quickly and easily negotiated. They said that new technology would solve future border customs issues. They said said so much more which has now proved to be untrue.

I have lived long enough to know that the UK is slitting its own throat. In my 70 years I have yet to witness such a debacle created by a small proportion of MPs, a political party with no parlimentary representation and a few Northern Irish DUP MPs. And I never before witnessed the inept and incompetent quality of leadership from both major political parties which has lead us to this cliff-edge of disaster. The mantra continually trotted out by Brexiteers is that low-income UK residents will have cheaper food, cheaper clothes and cheaper shoes after Brexit. An influx of under-regulated food/agriculture from outside the EU and its foreign partners is not only dangerous but will ruin UK farmers. And can cheap clothes and shoes be considered a serious reason to unwind over 40 years of EU success (should such benefits be actually accrued…).

Now what if we initially had asked the EU what their red lines were in seeking full and free-trade. We could then have quickly created a solution that suited everybody and although acute Brexiteers would have been very annoyed, well so what? 2 years on and we are nowhere with the EU still holding all the cards.

How could we have got it so wrong?


And, are we too late?


Shakenstir Photo Supplement
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The King Blues

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