May 16, 2019 1.25 pm This story is over 53 months old

Barry Turner: Contemplating life after Brexit

Wishful thinking to the point of delusion

As we approach yet another half-baked Parliamentary vote on Brexit, one that like its predecessors is doomed to fail, we can sit and quietly contemplate the future.

If, and it is if rather than when we leave the EU, there will be a whole new set of horizons to cross. We will control our borders and make our own trade deals with the world. We will give an extra £350 million a week to the NHS and operate in a World Trade Organisation paradise of immensely profitable commerce that will make every UK citizen richer.

Or will we? Is it not possible that this might just be wishful thinking to the point of delusion?

Next month it will be three years since the British people voted to leave Europe. In that three years we have seen the political system and the political parties in the UK go into terminal decay. The only party that has benefitted is one that two months ago did not exist and it now strides ahead of all the traditional established parties in the country.

This party of former Ukippers and hard line Tories is triumphant in advance of an election it knows it will win. Its supporters are triumphant in the knowledge that its forthcoming victory will be seen as an endorsement to leave the EU and carry out the will of the British people. Already, this party is talking about standing in a general election even though as it stands it is a one trick pony with only one ‘policy’.

We only have to look at the views of its leaders to see what that would mean in reality if ever such a party won a general election. Its leader believes we need American-style insurance-based healthcare. Its candidates believe that unemployed people and the disabled are work-shy scroungers. Its financers believe that worker’s rights should be scrapped.

The World Trade Organisation, that we are told will make us prosperous in our trade, is wracked with tariff wars initiated by two of the world biggest economies and has no means of resolving that for years to come.

In the 45 years plus since we joined the EU we have integrated its law and systems into our own domestic society and assimilated European culture. This is not some alien imposition; it is now as British as fish and chips and a rainy bank holiday.

So, when ‘we’ take back control and give it to Nigel Farage, Ann Widdecombe and Boris Johnson, this is what is going to happen. If that control means dismantling the NHS, dismantling the welfare state, denying workers rights and starting a Trump style trade war with our former partners — there will be no world of opportunity and riches for all, there will be many winters of discontent and summers of streets full of decomposing uncollected garbage.

The years before we joined the EU were the years of strikes and economic stagnation. The years of all-powerful unions with their dictatorial bosses for life. Try dismantling workers rights and they will be back. Contrary to what we are told, it was not Mrs. Thatcher’s anti trade union laws that tamed the unions; it was EU law that protected workers rights and made many trade unions incidental. Take away those rights and the unions will be back.

No one will forgive any party or politician that threatens the NHS or the welfare system that protects so many of our vulnerable citizens. Try to dismantle those and there will be civil unrest that will make Extinction Rebellion and the Poll Tax riots look like an afternoon tea party.

The World Trade Organisation will not protect us when a trade war breaks out. Neither will it enforce our disputes when they inevitably occur in our new trade ‘deals’, we will be on our own with far more rivals than allies. Commerce and trade are about gaining advantages, not friends.

The Brexiteers have assured us that there will be no change to our treasured institutions like the NHS, welfare system and workers rights. They will protect it all in spite of the political positions of many of their leaders. They tell us that we will be able to make friction-free trade deals with every country in the world. They tell us that the world is queuing up to do deals on our terms and falling over themselves simply to make British people richer. There will be no problems outside the EU because we are taking back control to leave everything as it is.

Makes you wonder what the point of it all was really. Still, ‘no worries’ as the saying goes. The Brexit Party will inevitably win the pointless EU election, but it will never convince the British people that its other ideologies are a good thing. They will never win a general election with the baggage they carry.

Life after Brexit may have many challenges, but Nigel Farage in 10 Downing Street will not be one of them.

Barry Turner is a Senior Lecturer in War Reporting and Human Rights and a member of the Royal United Services Institute.