A Brexit Roundup
Even in Shakespeare’s day, the English Channel was considered a moat, protecting England “Against the envy of less happier lands”. Lord Nelson was somewhat more blunt, saying about his continental neighbours: “They are thieves, murderers, oppressors and infidels… ” And “ …you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil”.
From the earliest years of planning for European integration, a refusal to participate was almost unanimously supported in Britain.
But this all changed when, just after 11 a.m. on 1 December 1990, British workers broke through to their French colleagues in a tunnel 132 feet under la Manche.
It ended the position Britain had enjoyed for 8,000 years — since the last Ice Age — as an independent island off continental Europe. The UK and France were now joined by a bridge under the sea. Many saw this as the end of Britain’s splendid isolation. The physical barrier protecting England from foreign influences and invasion was no more. The wall of water that had stymied the Spanish Armada and Hitler’s invasion was a thing of the past.
Le Figaro called it “the end of British insularity”. French President Mitterrand saw it as a project that would be “decisive” in strengthening the European Union and the single market.
Even arch Eurosceptic Margaret Thatcher said it was “a demonstration of how to go about the practical making of Europe and demolishing its barriers”.
However, Britain’s relationship with Europe was suddenly thrown into reverse in 2016. In a breathtaking error of political judgement, the then PM announced an “in or out” referendum on EU membership.
The Brexit vote won the day. The perceived size of the majority — “narrow” or “overwhelming” — is invariably determined by one’s political leaning.
Four years of often acrimonious negotiations with Brussels and superheated sessions of the UK parliament followed. Insults became the order of the day. No holds were barred. The Queen was drawn into the fray. According to the BBC, even she was told a few porkies.
Finally, on 29 December 2020, the latest Prime Minister announced, “We got Brexit done!”
Arguably Britain’s most important economic and social changes ever, and a fundamental overhaul of the UK’s international legal status. The historic event was celebrated with the issue of cheap souvenirs including Brexit lapel badges, tea towels, and other bits of junk.
Whether this will eventually be seen as a British economic renaissance or simply a revival of old-fashioned Anglo Saxon jingoism is hard to say. Media organisations in bed with various interests fell over each other to present their assessments in the best possible light. But the crowing in Parliament is not matched by the predictions of many impartial commentators on the future of the UK economy. And most objective analysts have been less than enthusiastic about the results the split will bring.
Although Brexit’s impact on the economy has been muddied by the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of effort has gone into forecasting future economic trends.
According to Bloomberg, the US privately held financial, software, data, and media company, “The U.K still faces a rude awakening… ”
A KPMG study believes that “Membership of the European Union has contributed to the economic prosperity of the United Kingdom”. But their latest forecast predicts that Brexit could cost the UK economy 2.9 percentage points in 2021.
At a seminar at the London School of Economics, the OECD Secretary-General said that leaving Europe will “impose a Brexit tax on generations to come”.
Only a few weeks into the new status quo and a groundswell of problems has arisen. As could have been expected, one supposes, a blame game to find scapegoats for any possible negative economic consequences has already started. There are complaints about excessive paperwork, inspections and controls. The fishermen, farmers and many pop groups (hoping for a few summer gigs in Europe) all have long faces. The Irish on both sides of the border (wherever that is) are holding their breath. Lorries are being held up at Calais and Belfast. Several financial institutions have moved part of their operations to European capitals. Will this mean less cream for some Canary Wharf fat cats?
Unfortunately, a sense of schadenfreude is gaining traction amongst Remainers. “We told you so,” has become a common refrain. But the “Well they voted for it, let them wear it,” sentiment does not help anyone. A brake on the British and EU economies is in no one’s interest. Whatever the long-term repercussions of Brexit are, they will have an impact on everyone.
So, whether you voted to leave the European Union or to remain a member, is of no consequence. Perhaps you didn’t vote at all because you live far from the EU and the UK and don’t give a damn. But the ripple effect of Brexit on the world economy will eventually reach even you — wherever you are.
Has Brexit changed your life in any way? please leave your comments below.
1. The American view of the Channel Tunnel Scare – Extracted from the American Humor Magazine “Puck”. “The Lion can not face the crowing of the Cock”. One of the strongest opponents of the Channel Tunnel, General Wolseley (1833–1913), riding on the fleeing lion. (approx. 1885). Drawn by F. Graetz (approx. 1840–1913). via wikipedia
2. A HGV Shuttle coming out of the French portal near Coquelles, France – Florian Fèvre via Wikipedia
3. ‘Brexit is a monstrosity float ‘2017 via wikipedia
4-5. Mirror and Sun newspaper front pages via potatopro.com
6. Brexit junk: tea towels and pins via The Guardian
7. Protestors Brexit March London via BBC