It was always going to be a disaster. Queues of HGVs stretching miles from Dover. The Good Friday Agreement threatened by the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. Increased support for Scottish Independence. The promised lands of lucrative new trading partnerships exposed as nothing but carbon copies of pre-existing EU deals (with Australia the only exception). The livelihoods of fishermen, farmers, and small business owners threatened by extra costs and paperwork. All this, and we have yet to feel the long-term economic damage of leaving the EU, which the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts will cause a 4 per cent reduction to GDP. A recent poll shows that a majority of British people believe we are worse off having left the EU. Clearly, Brexit was a mistake.
That’s the argument of the doomsters in this debate. But others claim that while short-term damage is inevitable – there is always blowback from a jilted partner – Brexit is a long-term project, one that is tied to the fundamental principle of sovereignty. The Referendum result was not just a reflection of disgruntlement with out-of-touch elites or the falsehoods of the Leave campaign, but a direct consequence of the EU’s failings. Instead of unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels, we should put our faith in the idea of the nation state – the best vehicle for democracy. Granted, our trade with our neighbours is reduced, but that was a political choice, and the bulk of Britain’s economic activity is domestic. There are plenty of opportunities for success outside the shackles of EU regulation – what better indicator than the speed of the vaccine roll-out, which far outstripped that of other EU countries? If we sit tight and play to our strengths as a country, we will reap the rewards.
Which side is right?