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  • Lawrence Bailey

Brexit: has it really been worth it?

I’ve kept quiet about Brexit in the last couple of months (I can hear the muted cheers from here) although not for want of an opinion.

Basically, it’s just that I haven’t felt able to cast much light on a pretty gloomy situation.

We’ve reached the stage where we’re no longer part of the European Union. What’s left is how we best handle a prolonged and complex divorce settlement.

The mantra of those who have been intent on leaving is that sovereignty equates to independence. I understand this in principle, and it’s a reasonable assumption that any government adopting that cause would have something up its sleeve that resembled a means of replacing trading links built up over forty years.

Similarly, you’d expect them to evolve a continuity plan than can keep industry, commerce and retail running as seamlessly as possible. After all, as the timeline shows, there’s been ample opportunity to put something together.

The worst thing that could happen is a last-minute “either-or” situation where you don’t have a clue about the outcome from one day to another.

No prizes though for guessing which of those scenarios actually came about.

Why else would social media hacks now castigate businesses who state they’re unprepared for a no-deal outcome? Clearly these firms should never have believed Boris Johnson’s assurances of oven-ready solutions just waiting to be scooped up by desperate EU negotiators..

Or maybe business is actually supposed to accept the silly tabloid commentary that somehow the nation that quit the 28 member club can now retrospectively decide which rules they’ll follow and which they’ll ignore.

As for the prospect of defending fishing rights with warships, I don’t know if I’m more embarrassed by the ministers who came up with such codswallop or a media that eagerly reported it. Neither seems aware that a significant part of the Royal Navy fleet is either built or maintained by French-owned firms, but that’s only to be expected, I suppose

For all the “ticking clock” stuff, its fair to say that a lot of trade between the EU and the UK won't change overnight. It’s highly likely however that we’ll see shortages and higher prices in UK shops. How long that lasts is anyone’s guess.

All the objective projections consistently state that the UK price to be paid for post-Brexit autonomy is that we’re going to be worse off in terms of income, social provision and trading status.

Thus, and it doesn’t need a global pandemic to influence your perspective, the question we’re left with is whether the whole drawn out and divisive process has actually been worth it.

You can probably guess my view.


Brexit Timeline

23 June 2016 – a majority of those who voted choose to leave the European Union.

29 March 2017 – PM (Theresa May) formally triggers Article 50 to begin the two-year countdown to the UK formally leaving the EU. Intervention by the Commons extends Article 50 to until 30 June 2019.

2 April 2019 – PM seeks a further extension to the Article 50 process. UK and EU27 agreed to extend Article 50 until 31 October 2019.

24 July 2019 – Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister

19 October 2019 – PM’s new Brexit deal is lost on amendment in the Commons. PM writes to European Council requesting an extension. This is agreed as 31 January 2020.

12 December 2019 - Boris Johnson wins a general election majority and reaffirms his commitment to ‘Get Brexit Done‘.

23 January 2020 - European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act receives Royal Assent. The UK leaves EU and enters a transition period scheduled to run until the end of the year.

6 December 2020 – As talks stall again, the UK government imposes a 12 December 2020 deadline. Talks continue beyond that date nonetheless.

14 December 2020 – An Ipsos Mori poll conducted for the Evening Standard reports 63 percent of those asked saying the government has done a bad job of Brexit.

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