July 27, 2018 9.34 am This story is over 64 months old

George Smid: We have to talk about Brexit

George Smid argues the British public must not let silence fall on Brexit

This is not the Trump’s confusion about would and wouldn’t. I mean it. We have not heard about Brexit at all recently.

Yes, there was a lot of talk about the drama of Brexit in the parliament, cabinet resignations, Chequers Papers, White Papers, amendments, … surely, we have heard a lot about Brexit.

Yes and no. What has completely disappeared from the discussions is why people voted to leave the EU and how likely it is to fulfil these Brexit promises.

Instead, we are talking about MPs’ pairing, Irish border, ministerial visits to European capitals …. We hear about Brexit strategies; we don’t hear how and if we can fulfil Brexit aims.

We talk about Brexit the same way we talked in Middle Ages about the Black Death. Plenty of talk but without understanding what Black Death was and how to deal with it.

We still don’t know how to deal with Brexit. We try to scare evil spirit, we ostracise people with symptoms, we think the cure is the right smell to dislodge ‘bad air’. We note that the Jews are less affected but we don’t know why. So instead of learning from them to wash our hands we kill the Jews blaming them for the epidemic.

This column repeatedly argued against such a ‘religious based’ approach to Brexit and advocated cost-benefit analysis, a test run for a no-deal Brexit and for the Leavers and Remainers coming together to present their alternatives.

It is pointless for the PM to cry ‘get on with it’ if we don’t know what to get on with.

For a short while we knew what Brexit was. Free movement of goods but not services. On Friday we had a proposal, two days later the Brexit secretary resigned. Ten more resignations followed and divided the government, the parliament, the country, the families again.

We are going about Brexit the wrong way. We look at symptoms not the cause. Is the smell of rose petals the best way to keep the plague away? Or will straw smell be sufficient?

We should use the summer recess to work out how to fulfil the original aims of Brexit.

Let’s start by checking the VoteLeaveTakeControl website what we initially expected from Brexit.

First aim was “our money on our priorities” (£350 million for NHS, £20 billion for schools).

Next, we wanted to “take back control”: of immigration (76 million of Turks moving into UK), of our laws (UK ‘outvoted’ every time at a cost of £2,4 billion) and of our economy and trade (own laws and regulations, own trade deals; Euro currency collapsing).

We will achieve that because the Brits are great: the fifth largest economy, the fourth military power, permanent member of NATO and UN Security Council.

Finally, Vote Leave specifies the way the UK leaves the EU, quote: taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step. We will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.

Clearly, none of these aims are presently discussed. Some claims changed – Brexit reduced us to the sixth largest economy. Some are not linked to Brexit at all – NATO and UN. Some were abandoned – negotiating before leaving. The rest is plainly wrong:

  • Money: The Brexit will save us £13.3 billion but £7,5 billion will be spent on withdrawal agreement. The rest goes to farmers, so no saving there.
  • Immigration: The EU migration is down; the overall migration is up. Indeed, the government spent £40 million to recruit more no-EU migrants. People who voted to control immigration did not vote for replacement of one type with another type.
  • Regulations: If we want to trade with the EU, we will have to follow EU rules and regulation. Everybody does – see the latest trade deal between Japan and EU. Meanwhile, not a whiff of UK own deals.

So what next? Two months before the Withdrawal Agreement we still discus which Brexit we want.

In reality we have only two options: to stay or to leave without a deal. To decide which, we need another vote – in the Parliament or a third referendum (the first was in June 1975, the second in June 2016).

But, and this is a big but, there is no point in another vote if the alternatives are not fully defined. It is therefore the duty of Leavers and Remainers to specify their post-Brexit vision. It is no good to say we have to wait for 50 years to see what it is.

We know what Brexit was supposed to deliver. Now we must vote on how we get that. If the best way to fulfil Brexit promises is to stay in the EU there is no reason why we should not stay.

We just must talk about Brexit proper now.

George Smid is chair of the European Movement East Midlands.