The Irony of Brexit

So, we now have a draft withdrawal agreement with the EU. This is what Brexit actually means. At least those who voted leave now know what they voted for. Brexit means Brexit and this is it! It might not be quite what many had imagined but, according to the Prime Minister, this is the best deal that could be negotiated.

The irony is that the government has spent the best part of two years negotiating a deal that seems to leave us worse off than if we had just stayed in the EU. Mrs. May appears to see this deal as a triumph and it may well be, if it prevents a no deal Brexit. Some see a no deal Brexit as creating chaos at ports which could lead to shortages and even public unrest so obviously this is best avoided but it is quite difficult to see why any government would risk getting into such a position. On the other hand, the uncertainty around the Brexit process has already damaged UK economic prospects and, whilst the agreement may dispel some concerns, it is difficult to see where the economic advantage arises over and above the status quo of actually doing nothing.

This was never an option, according to the natural party of government. Brexit had to be delivered as it was the will of the British people. Fair enough; in the 2016 EU referendum 17.4 million electors voted to leave against 16.1 million voting to remain. However, without disputing the result of the referendum which is clearly stated above, another way of looking at this is that 17.4 million electors voted to leave the EU whilst 29 million did not. So, it could be argued that the decision to leave the EU was taken on the basis of the opinion of a minority of the UK electorate. This is all pretty irrelevant as the policy of the natural party of government was to accept the result on the basis of a simple majority in answer to a simple leave/remain question. This tells us quite a bit about the competence of the natural party of government. You might ask where was the natural party of opposition whilst this fiasco was unfolding; where indeed?

So much agony could have been avoided if the natural party of government had planned properly for both outcomes. That planning process could have fed into both the remain and leave campaigns so that the complexity of the process would have been better known and better understood by all, including the electorate.

Whatever your views on the Brexit initiative, this ill conceived and badly executed exercise has cost us dear. The UK has gone from the star of the G7 to an also ran. Some commentators suggest that the slowdown in growth could have cost us as much as £100BN in lost output already but this is pure speculation and the real figure may be less than half that. The general consensus is that Brexit has led to an economic slowdown and that there will be no Brexit dividend, certainly in the short term. The damage to UK prestige and influence is difficult to quantify.

Brexit is here and, if the deal is ratified, we can start to negotiate our future relationship with the EU. It will be business as usual, at least during the transition period. Having said this, we are still not out of the woods yet. Those that got us into this position are still around and could potentially derail an already shaky process. If the deal is ratified, Brexit will not be the total disaster that some imagined but the damage to the UK has already been done and we will not achieve the economic and diplomatic potential that we could have done had the process not taken place or had the process been properly managed in the first place.

The damage to the natural party of government, however, has, to date, been spectacular and could very soon get much worse. The UK political establishment, as a whole, has been found wanting but the natural party of government has demonstrated a level of incompetence that must surely be difficult to recover from. Still, the British people may be a forgiving bunch.

Whilst this masterclass in futility has been in progress, the 18 local authorities, here in Yorkshire, in favour of the One Yorkshire devolution initiative have come up with a plan to improve Yorkshire’s economic performance by up to £30BN a year. This has, so far, not received a formal response from the government.

So, whilst local politicians are trying to do something to mitigate the economic damage inflicted by central government, they are restricted in what they can do by the constraints placed upon them by central government and the confusion surrounding Westminster’s policy on devolution to Yorkshire.

In our opinion, the handling of Brexit demonstrates a failure of the UK political system and provides the most compelling reason yet for a Yorkshire wide administration, preferably a parliament, to properly represent the interests of our county, our people and our stakeholders. The UK government has demonstrated that it has neither the competence nor the interest to do so.

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