Whatever happens in Thursday’s vote (if it is not further delayed), the Brexit saga will drag on for many years.
Even if we avoid a no-deal in March, the crisis is only postponed – we still need to agree the post-Brexit settlement with the EU, with a hard deadline for that of December 2020.
Companies are taking evasive action to avoid no-deal already. Those exporting to Australia face exporting goods that could be taxed punitively on arrival. If companies start no-deal plans, there is little point in stopping them when there could be another no-deal scenario in 2020.
The trade deals on offer from Japan, South Korea and the US are harsh – and the EU has been clear that any terms they offer will always be worse than being in the EU. So, the referendum has turned out to a vote to constrain and contract British industry.
As Donald Tusk pointed out in his controversial speech, the remain voters (48%) have had no real representation. A second referendum is pointless, as there has been little groundwork to promote remain over the last 2½ years. Even with the fiasco the government has made of implementing Brexit, 40% of people are very fixed as leavers. Another referendum is not likely to resolve anything.
The mood in the country is increasingly ugly and divided. A 48/52 split was not a mandate for a hard Brexit, rather it suggested the need for a considered, thoughtful response. Instead, we have ‘Brexit-means-Brexit’ and the idea that this must happen at any cost.
We’re also seeing discussion of impending civil unrest, against a background of increased racism and intolerance. While vox-pops are a poor representation of the actual opinion of the country, the media are broadcasting ill thought-out and aggressive views about Europe and immigrants, as well as supporting a weird nostalgia for wartime Britain.
One of the biggest achievements of Cameron’s badly-planned referendum was to take an issue rated as unimportant for most voters and turn it into something that has consumed all British politics. We still need to deal with the fallout from austerity; instead, civil servants are being moved from their current work to deal with Brexit.
Britain appears to have chosen to launch a national calamity by choice, and nobody is doing anything to stop it. The opposition are abetting this rather than taking any sort of clear or principled stand – apparently due to their leader’s desire for an election he is likely to lose even worse than last time.
Britain is completely broken. We’re in an impossible political situation with no way out. It is going to take years to resolve these problems and tensions, while reducing us, once more, to being the sick man of Europe.
I acknowledge that my skills and background give me opportunities a lot of people don’t have. But those opportunities are there. Why would I want to stay in Britain?