3. BRexit - A Political Cult?
In some ways, the Brexit leadership is behaving like the leaders of a religious cult; they repeatedly parrot fantastical beliefs about how wonderful life will be for Britains after they have left the ‘oppressive yoke’ of the EU, without providing any substantive proof of how the future will be better. They dismiss anyone who questions their beliefs, label detractors as being ‘bemoaners’, ‘remoaners’ and ‘enemies of the people’. Perhaps worst of all, they fail to provide satisfactory answers to the reasoned questions and arguments put to them by journalists, TV presenters, the House of Lords, members of public; i.e. anybody with genuine concerns for the future of the UK. Whilst this seemingly shallow autocracy can be viewed as an affront to British democracy, a graver fear is that some of the Brexit leaders are out of their depth and are dangerously unprepared for the arduous (potentially perilous) journey ahead.
The reality of what Brexit would mean was never made clear during the Brexit Referendum campaign. Currently all indicators are pointing towards a Brexit that will be much harder than anything considered during the campaign, let alone promised. It is now generally accepted that certain expectations promoted by the Leave team were false pledges and are not going to be achievable. For example:
A significant fall in immigration levels. Immigration levels may actually need to rise because the UK needs immigrants to do jobs that locals either don’t want to do, don’t have the necessary skills or simply unable to do;
Saving of £350m a week. The gross figure of £350m was never valid, as it did not include the £74m weekly rebate from Brussels, nor the £115m spent weekly by the EU on support for the UK farmers, aid payments to British regions, research by UK universities and companies and many other UK-based projects;
Leading Brexit campaigner Michael Gove said that leaving the EU would allow the UK Government to spend an extra £100m a week on the NHS. However, the NHS which already suffers chronic staff shortages, is now facing a prospect of losing tens of thousands of qualified doctors and nurses from the EU countries. Even if the £100m a week is forthcoming, this will not be enough to plug the staff shortage gap caused by Brexit;
Staying in the Single Market or the Customs Union. It is now clear that Brexit leaders have prioritized controlling immigration over access to European markets. The terms of any replacement trade deal and/or customs agreement may not be known for several years;
In practical terms, the UK isn’t going to get its sovereignty back. Unless the UK wants to become an international pariah after it left the EU, the UK will still have to comply with numerous ‘rules of engagement’ set out by various international organisations;
The UK is unlikely to remain a world leader in research and development. R&D funding will almost certainly fall because the UK Government is unlikely to have capacity to match research funding currently provided by the EU.
Given the number, magnitude and complexity of the challenges, it is reasonable to assume that many thousands of things will go awry and it will be necessary to implement backup plans and other contingencies. However, the Brexiteers do not seem to have much of a primary plan, let alone any contingency plans. It is therefore possible that the Brexiteers will drag the UK into a never-ending quagmire of unresolved, often acrimonious disputes and legal uncertainties.