There is an interesting and eerie silence in the political classes since the vote to leave the EU on June 24th. There is some triumphalism, but that in the main is coming from those who are insulated against the economic shockwaves coming in the next few months. It is fascinating to hear the well heeled Eurosceptic telling everyone that a little hardship is worth it to get ‘our’ sovereignty back.
Those who led the 48% of Britain who did not want to leave into this are less confident. The old cliché ‘be careful what you wish for’ is now, as it always does, ringing in the ears of some of them after the event. It’s one thing demanding ‘independence’ and quite another exercising it.
We left the EU, but it, and the rest of the world are still there. We have now got to work with them and it will not be on our terms.
Those who told us we would be free and made us promises must now deliver. They must come up with the huge amounts of money the promised the NHS. They must control the borders, they must renegotiate our trade with not only the EU but with the rest of the world. Making promises, like demanding independence, is very easy behind the reassurance of not having to deliver. Well now they have to!
The truth is beginning to dawn, albeit slowly, among those still intoxicated by Brexit. The EU have already taken a hard line. The Brexiteers told us that would not happen, “they need us more than we need them” was the frequent cry. Perhaps not is the emerging answer. “Britain will get a good trade deal” was another cry, they need to sell their cars, wine and cheese to us.
It is now becoming very clear that the EU is not about cars, wine and cheese. Trade is about power, not goods. The EU is far more powerful than the UK and it can take the hit of selling less cars, wine and cheese. We cannot take the hit of losing the main business of the UK financial markets and the industries that located here to get access to the single market.
We are now between two stools, the WTO Rules and the Single Market, there is no ‘third way’. We either stay in the Single Market — including continuing to pay a contribution to the EU and accepting its rules — or we go the way of the WTO and accept tariffs and a less competitive economy.
Seventeen million people voted to leave the EU: they were promised that our borders would be controlled. If we stay in the Single Market it will not be us that are controlling them. They were told we were fine, “we are the fifth biggest economy in the world,” but that will not be the case for much longer. The strength of a national economy is not its size, it is its stability. That has already gone.
David Cameron offered this referendum, not to ‘liberate the people’ but to save the Tory party. It is highly likely that the actual result will be the loss of the United Kingdom itself. As for the Tory party it is still doomed. The referendum did not give us ‘independence’. It did not liberate the ‘little man’ from the elites, they are still in charge. It has not given us our country back, it has thrown it into a maelstrom of uncertainty and danger.
— Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.