What arguments are left for Brexit? Seriously. Other than doing the opposite of what Tony Blair wants, are there any reasons left for quitting the EU? The Brexit vote was supposedly about immigration, saving the NHS and making a fairer economy for everyone: with a bit of British nationhood thrown in. In the last week or so each of these arguments has been revealed as not quite what Brexiteers were hoping for. Leave voters should be questioning Brexit and Remainers should unite with them.
This week David Davis, diehard Brexiteer, went to Eastern Europe and said that our economy needs immigrants. If he’s willing to u-turn on Brexit dogma then what’s left? Millions of people voted to restrict immigration… so what does this mean for the Brexit mandate?
Immigration was such a big issue that after the referendum it became Theresa May’s ‘redline’ and we’re leaving the Single Market and Customs Union and likely the European Research Area just to ensure it happens. Theresa May even damaged chances of a vital trade deal with India because they asked for more visas for students and highly skilled workers – all things that our economy desperately needs.
Davis isn’t the only Brexit Minister acknowledging that we need large-scale immigration from the EU. Sajid Javid admits we need construction workers for house building. I don’t think it’s a strawman argument to say that the proverbial ‘Polish builder’ was an immigrant group Brexiteers wanted to restrict.
Specific groups of Brexiteers will be disappointed with Brexit immigration revelations too. For example, millions of Asian voters chose Brexit because they wanted more chance of immigration for non-EU citizens. Theresa May’s decision to knee-cap the economy just to keep Indians out must surely be a real blow to their Brexit hopes.
A big cry during Brexit was that we’d be able to keep the ‘good immigrants’, possibly through some sort of points system. Nigel Farage promoted the points-system endlessly but Theresa May dropped it as an option because it doesn’t provide enough control – something agreed by many experts.
Instead, we’re seeing Brexit uncertainty over immigration leading to the loss of several groups that Brexiteers might want to keep. We have more doctors leaving, more nurses leaving, fewer students coming and an academic brain drain on the cards. Brexiteers did not vote to damage the NHS or universities.
If the Brexit Ministry is acknowledging that we need more immigration from Eastern Europe, is still working to keep out non-EU citizens, is acknowledging the fact that a points-based system wouldn’t do what Farage promises and their overall policy is leading to damage to our economy and public services… are Brexit voters who were motivated by immigration not beginning to question Theresa May’s Brexit?
A rallying cry of the Brexit vote was to regain sovereignty. The URL for the official Leave campaign was ‘voteleavetakecontrol.org’ and ‘take back control’ was a common chant used by campaign leaders.
It must come as some surprise then that even the Brexit Ministry state in their Brexit White Paper that Parliament has ‘remained sovereign throughout our membership to the EU.’ Does the Brexit Ministry disagree with Leave voters or were voters misled by Leave campaigners?
The other surprise must surely be that while some Brexiteers had claimed Brexit ‘is about the supremacy of Parliament and nothing else’, the first order of business for the Brexit Ministry was to bypass Parliamentary democracy altogether.
Any voter that wanted greater sovereignty from Brexit should be concerned that the Brexit Ministry claims it was never lost and has proven itself to be very keen on sidelining traditional British democracy.
NHS and public services
The campaign director for Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings, said, “If Boris, Gove, and Gisela had not supported us and picked up the baseball bat marked ‘Turkey/NHS/£350 million’ with five weeks to go, then 650,000 votes might have been lost.” He attributes the promise of NHS funding for his win but never acknowledges that his ‘baseball bat’ was nothing but lies.
Not only did the UK have a veto over Turkish membership but we’ve since heard the Brexit Ministry acknowledge what health experts and economists were saying before the vote – Brexit offers no extra money for the NHS.
In fact, in the Autumn Statement we discovered that Brexit would increase public debt and therefore Austerity would continue for the NHS and social care, while tax cuts would come in for big businesses.
Add to that the loss of doctors, nurses and social care staff (as well as health researchers, statisticians and all manner of technicians and experts) that I mentioned above and massive price hikes from the falling pound… and we have a perfect storm of damage for public services.
Both Remain and Leave voters were voting in the hopes of improving public services. Disabled voters were one group that strongly voted Leave in the hopes of better funding the NHS. With that clearly off the table, have millions of disabled voters removed their mandate for Brexit too?
Equality and globalisation
The hope of making globalisation and capitalism work for the whole country has been torn to shreds as the UK promises to become a tax-haven post-Brexit.
We’ve seen in the Autumn Statement that Brexit means slashed corporation tax and continued Austerity, a continuation of George Osborne’s ‘long term economic plan’ for a low-tax, low-spend, small government, privatized nation. The NHS is in crisis and the Brexit Ministry lies about funding while telling hospitals to send patients to private clinics.
Rather than a Brexit that works for everyone, Brexit Britain is on course to increase inequality, damage public services and we look set to take desperate trade deals with the US that will drive down standards for British workers and consumers.
Much of the Brexit campaign was based on the EU suffering heavily from the Global Financial Crash of 2007-8. Brexiteers have pointed to high youth unemployment and the Euro crisis was a constant backdrop to economic arguments.
On the other hand, while the UK economy is doing better than the worst pre-referendum predictions it looks set to stumble as consumers are hit by rising prices across the board. This will hit the poorest hardest, yet another fact of Brexit inequality.
The Brexit vote was one of the narrowest results in UK history. As such, it had one of the weakest mandates ever. Sure, Brexiteers had 1 million more votes than Remain but the result was very close to 50:50 and it would only take 5% of Leave voters to change their mind for there to be no mandate for Brexit any more.
If Brexit immigration isn’t what Brexiteers were expecting, sovereignty was never truly lost (and seems most at threat from the Brexit Ministry!), public services are being damaged instead of saved, we’re heading to a less equal, more elitist society and the EU is finally recovering from the global crash, then what reasons are there still for Brexit?
At the very least, we need to have an open dialogue on these key Brexit issues. We need to stop the ‘you lost, get over it’ dismissal of opposition and we need to return to traditional British democratic values. Brexiteers should be really pissed off about how Brexit is turning out and Remainers will be happy to support them in holding the Brexit Ministry to account.