My esteemed Reaction colleague Walter Ellis has conducted one of his magnificent bombing raids on Brexit. Britain will leave the EU, he says, but he then lambasts Theresa May and her ministers for the job they are doing handling it. As only Walter can, he takes a baseball bat to the knees of the Brexiteers.
As the editor of Reaction and someone who voted for Brexit I read it with interest, amusement, and some concern as the points hit home. I love Brexit and think it is one of the most magnificent things done by a nation in the modern era, although the handling of it has been, er, suboptimal.
But there is a danger on the Remain side of indulging in the political equivalent of catastrophism (the notion of sudden and violent geological change transforming the landscape.) That is daft. Brexit was never going to be utopia, but it is hardly armageddon either.
It will be bumpy on the way out of the EU, but Brexit will be fine. Here are some reasons it will be fine:
1) I know we’re not allowed to say that the EU needs and wants a deal, because saying so drives poor Remainers totally tonto, but the indications are that the EU is unhappy with us but does not want to sacrifice the business its nation states do with the UK. They will leave it late, and then a deal is likely in that one minute to midnight style of the EU. Even if there is no deal, it will be messy for both sides, but hardly a catastrophe.
2) Eventually Tony Blair will retire, and his whole gang. And then we’ll wonder why we didn’t Brexit years earlier.
3) The economy. For all that exports matter – and they do when the UK is an open, global economy – the UK economy is a major economy that is overwhelmingly domestic. This is not an argument for saying “stuff exports.” We need to export more to grow, clearly. But as much as 80% of the economy counts as domestic. Is there really going to be no trade with the EU? All exports will vanish? Don’t be silly. Oh, and the City is in good shape having woken up to the reality (which also drives my Remain friends tonto) that the City makes the eurozone debt machine go round. It is miles bigger than any European financial centre. In such circumstances, it would be crazy to be regulated by email from Brussels or Frankfurt. The City knows this now and has worked out the world will still go round. And in many of the industries of the future – which are barely regulated yet, which London can help shape – the UK is well-positioned.
4) There is good will towards the UK in other parts of the world. We shouldn’t overdo this. We are not entitled to a living, but the Australian and Canadian governments are just two of our allies who have made it clear they want to cooperate and improve links.
5) The world moves on. Brexit is a big deal now, in the UK anyway, and in my view it is historically a big deal, representing a return to self-government and a development potentially comparable with the break with Rome and the Elizabethan settlement. But Brexit is essentially a bunch of treaties we are leaving that are in the grand sweep of history rather new. If you think this is the end of the world I’ve got a book to sell you on the Second World War. That’s a real crisis.
6) Brexit is good for the Union. The SNP pitch on Scottish independence is now much more difficult. It proposes to leave the UK (but share a currency?) while applying to join the EU (which means pledging to join the Euro.) Awkward. It is good for the constitution more broadly. Brexit is an opportunity to improve our constitutional arrangements to disperse power in the coming decades. Parliament will get a new lease of life. Good.
7) Brexit will be fine. Okay that’s not another reason, but I thought I would just say it again.