Brexit’s Broken Promises

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

The New Statesman reports that none of Brexit’s promises have come true:

  • Brexiteers said leaving the EU would unleash growth. Instead, growth has stalled and higher inflation has depressed real wages.
  • David Davis, now Brexit secretary, said Britain would be able to create “a free-trade area massively larger than the EU.” So far, no country has expressed an interest in doing a separate trade deal with the United Kingdom.
  • Liam Fox predicted that trade talks with the EU would be “one of the easiest in human history.” But the EU insists on properly negotiating Britain’s exit before even starting trade negotiations.
  • Rather than give Britain an extra £350 million to spend on health care each week, the Office for Budget Responsibility projects that the country will lose the equivalent of £300 million per week because of Brexit.

Little wonder that supporters of leaving the EU have continually lowered expectations. The promise of Brexit has been downgraded from a Singapore on the Thames to not “as apocalyptic as some people like to pretend”.

Pressure Builds on May As Brexit Hardliners Close Ranks

British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Pressure is building on Britain’s Theresa May as Brexit and the ambitions of her foreign secretary widen divisions in the ruling Conservative Party:

  • The Sunday Times reports that forty Conservative lawmakers are now calling for a confidence vote in May’s premiership, eight short of the number required to trigger a leadership election.
  • Daily Mail reports that pro-Brexit ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are holding May hostage by threatening to walk out unless she pushes for a clean break with the EU.
  • Gove and David Davis, another Brexit hardliner, have rushed to Johnson’s defense after the foreign secretary mistakingly said a British NGO worker was held in Iran for “simply teaching people journalism” there. Iranian prosecutors seized on his statement to argue for extending Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison sentence. She has been accused of plotting against the Iranian state. Read more

British Reject Plan to Keep Northern Ireland in Customs Union, Single Market

The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009
The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Britain is fighting an EU proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc’s customs union and single market in order to avoid closing the border with the rest of the island.

“We will leave the EU in 2019 as one United Kingdom,” James Brokenshire, Theresa May’s Northern Ireland secretary, has said.

He argued on Monday it would be “impossible” for the province to remain half in EU when the rest of the country exits. Read more

Conservatives Pay the Price for Putting Party Before Country

Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Theresa May of the United Kingdom inspect an honor guard in Ottawa, September 18
Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Theresa May of the United Kingdom inspect an honor guard in Ottawa, September 18 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Britain’s Conservatives are paying the price for putting party before country.

Theresa May, the prime minister, only elevated Boris Johnson and Priti Patel to the cabinet last year because she felt she needed to appease the pro-Brexit wing of her party.

Both had supported an exit from the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

Both have now done harm to British diplomacy and possibly put a British citizen in danger. Read more

Without Brexit Deal, United Kingdom Would Be Thrown into Chaos

View of The Shard skyscraper in London, England, April 15, 2012
View of The Shard skyscraper in London, England, April 15, 2012 (Flickr/Johnas)

Brexiteers who believe leaving the European Union without a deal would not be the end of the world should think again. Politico reports that the consequences of a “hard” Brexit could be disastrous:

  • Flights between the United Kingdom and continental Europe will be grounded, possibly bankrupting airlines and instantly ramping up demand for ferries and trains.
  • Ports on each side of the English Channel will be paralyzed by new customs checks, with queues of trucks likely stretching for many miles, clogging roads.
  • Fresh produce, caught in the shipping delays, will rot.
  • Tons of decomposing garbage normally shipped for processing on the continent will pile up in Britain.
  • Patients will have to go without state-of-the-art cancer diagnostics that rely on specialized radioactive materials that cannot be produced in the United Kingdom. Read more

Theresa May Repeats Alexis Tsipras’ Mistake

British prime minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip, arrive in Hamburg, Germany for the G20 summit, July 6
British prime minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip, arrive in Hamburg, Germany for the G20 summit, July 6 (Bundesregierung)

When Greece resisted demands for spending cuts from its creditors last year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appealed to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, for talks with the other 27 heads of government.

His hope was that fellow leaders would be more sympathetic than the technocrats of the “troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Tusk rebuffed him and reminded Tsipras that the troika had been delegated by national leaders to monitor Greece’s bailout. The whole point of putting bureaucrats in charge was to avoid the politicians being tempted to cut Greece some slack.

Theresa May clearly hasn’t learned Tsipras’ lesson. Read more

Brexit and Trump as Reactionary Fantasies

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, October 29, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Andrew Sullivan sees similarities between Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. Both, he writes in New York magazine, are reactionary fantasies:

Brexit and Trump are the history of Thatcher and Reagan repeating as dangerous farce, a confident, intelligent conservatism reduced to nihilist, mindless reactionism.

Trump is the worst of the two. His absurd claims about the economy being a “disaster” before he took over and now posting record growth; his tough talk as substitute for foreign policy; his determination to reverse every one of Barack Obama’s policy accomplishments and his daily Twitter tirades are about as clear an escape from reality as one can imagine.

For the four in ten Americans who still support him, that is the point of Trump’s presidency: to pretend the modern world — with its changing climate and demographics, relaxed gender norms, declining religiosity, global supply chains and devaluation of manual labor — doesn’t exist. Read more