What I am about to write is really very very scary.
Fully sixteen months ago today we woke up to the news the UK had voted to leave the European Union. However, the UK Government still has absolutely no notion how to go about this.
Nearly fifteen months ago the new Prime Minister appointed three prominent Brexiters to deliver what they had campaigned for. The EU would fold over and give the British the deal they wanted because of their consumer spending; other countries would be fighting over who would do the first trade deal with the newly liberated UK; and of course fully £350m per week would become available for Health. In the words of Blackadder there was only one problem with this plan – it was, ahem, bollocks.
The reason we are now sixteen months on and still lacking a plan is that the three Ministers thus appointed have failed abjectly to grasp that obvious point. The EU will not breach its own rules; no one is particularly interested in a trade deal with the UK (at least, not one which would actually be in any way favourable to the UK); and the rise in the cost of living plus the sheer bureaucratic burden of managing withdrawal has left the country with considerably less to spend on public services, bringing into question the very viability of the NHS. These are the straightforward facts, and yet still the three Ministers plough on, choosing to ignore them at great cost to households up and down the country.
Worse still, the three Ministers do not care about the cliff edge they are leading the UK towards – a cliff edge which in the words of one prominent Leave campaigner would render the UK “almost a failed state”. The three of them are, of course, too busy trying to position themselves for the top job – not just by making themselves look good but also by making the other two look bad – to care about the vast damage being done right now to households of low and fixed incomes suffering the rise in the cost of living, or soon to business when it realises it simply has no means to trade beneficially, or then to public services such as NHS when government revenue inevitably plummets.
To be clear, as I always said on these pages, Brexit was deliverable had another course been adopted. Firstly, the UK should have left “associate membership” on the table (essentially membership with some restrictions over participation in the EU institutions in return for greater border controls); secondly it should not have triggered Article 50 until it was clear what type of deal was viable; thirdly it should at the very least by now have applied to join EFTA. So again to be clear, I cannot be accused of being someone who “ignored the will of the people”. Nor am I, however, someone who ignores reality.
Having chosen none of these perfectly sensible options as a route to achieving Brexit, and with the three Ministers not even listening to officials’ advice far less heeding it, the UK Government has now begun to run out of rope on which to hang itself.
In other words, Brexit has become an act of blind faith and thus an act of ignorant depravity. It must be stopped, now.