THE BREXIT PROBLEM
Six years to the day since we voted to leave the EU,I was at the excellent Bradford Literary Festival and heard former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell railing against the evils of Brexit.
He stated many truths including one that I especially identify with. Our departure from EU has made me, and Campbell, feel much more European.
But that is an emotional reaction, what are the hard facts that show that our vote in 2016 was one of the worst mistakes in our history.
It is difficult to separate the effects of Covid from Brexit and it suits the government to muddy the waters. But peering through the fog of obfuscation the picture is grim on the macro and micro scale.
Many small businesses have given up on exporting to the EU because of the red tape. We are about to lose our association with the £96bn Horizon research and innovation programme. We are preparing to break international law over the Northern Ireland Protocol which Boris Johnson signed to “Get Brexit Done” (joke). Where is that trade deal with America. As President Obama forecast, we are indeed at the back of the queue. And if you’re planning to take your pet with you on an EU holiday this summer, good luck with the regulations.
Now let me turn to that promise of the government to match the EU’s regional aid programme. Well, here are the comparisons between what the EU gave the NW compared to the government’s announced Shared Prosperity Fund. All figures in millions.
Liverpool City Region EU 80 UK 53. Down 34%
Greater Manchester EU 150 UK 98 Down 35%
Cheshire EU 51 UK 33 Down 35%
Cumbria EU 33 UK 21 Down 36%
Lancashire EU 96 UK 62 Down 35%
So, what are we to do about Brexit? The Tories still think there is mileage to be made out of continuing to quarrel with the bloc over Northern Ireland. It is unlikely that the courageous Tobias Ellwood will be joined by many colleagues in calling for at least considering re-joining the Single Market.
Labour is frightened to death of being seen to suggest their natural supporters “got it wrong” in 2016. That’s understandable, to some extent given the second vote contortions they went through. So, if Labour are going to be silent in 2024 on this huge issue, what about the Lib Dems? They are the party of Europe, but all the indications are that they will not touch the EU with a barge poll either.
I expressed my frustration to Alistair Campbell that neither his party, nor the Lib Dems, were going to give people a chance to vote for a party that would even contemplate starting to undo the Brexit damage.
He was relieved to see that the depiction of the Red Wall North as a solid bunch of Brexiteers was wrong but threw the challenge to the Lib Dems with their traditional support of the EU.
Anyway, visit Bradford, it is a lovely city getting ready to be capital of culture!