Brexit fantasy was never deliverable - GulfToday

Brexit fantasy was never deliverable


Representational image.

Michael Heseltine, The Independent

I am, I understand, a “bemoaner”: one of the lost tribe of British citizens who voted to remain in the European Union and now, resenting our defeat, lose no opportunity to undermine the triumph of our opponents.

We are apparently oblivious to the scale of their achievement, blinded by our prejudice, and quite incapable of watching in admiration as the Brexiteers seize the opportunities they foretold and are now grasping.

What heady days they were in 2016 when Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox were entrusted with the three leading ministerial posts to turn promise into reality once the referendum was secured. No need to wait for the detailed legislation. This was the moment to do the heavy digging, construct new frameworks, devise a plan. We were free. We had our country back. The dead hand of Brussels was soon to be history.

This was the moment to reinvigorate the people’s enterprise with a list of the regulations soon to be consigned to the bonfire. Our own trade deals, suited to our economic circumstances, with countries across the world, in place of those imposed on us by the single market. Borders slammed shut, except miraculously in Northern Ireland, where they wouldn’t exist at all. Britain once again being respected in the corridors of world power.

Two years later, the heady rhetoric of nationalism was a central component of the election campaign to get all this “done”. It worked. A massive majority removed any last obstacle between us and the promised land.Or so it seemed. Lord Frost, the man who had masterminded the technical legislation to turn all the phrases into reality, resigned. He was unconvinced by the direction of travel as he sensed it, after such close contact with his fellow Brexiteer ministers.

There is another explanation: the case presented to the British people, which secured such a small majority in the referendum, was based on a pack of lies. It was never deliverable.

I am the first to recognise that regulations are irksome to businesses seeking new openings. I know that I am responsible for a significant number of such rules, put in place to protect the environment, the countryside, our heritage and our wildlife. The many colleagues with whom I shared ministerial experience would take equal pride in the regulations they introduced to raise standards of safety, promote health, prevent exploitation in the workplace, and achieve a range of other purposes that convert the free-for-all of the jungle into civilised society.The single market was a plan to replace the different standards of each member country of the community with a single set, which would give industrialists much longer production runs and provide citizens with a simplified code of behaviour. Margaret Thatcher was an early convert, and rightly so.

We are a trading nation, and the terms on which that trade is conducted are of crucial importance. Virtually all the expert analysis points to countries being poorer outside the community. There is little surprise here, as over 40 per cent of our trade is with our neighbours.We were promised that any dip would be more than compensated for by an enthusiastic world waiting to replace our community-designed deals with bespoke deals tailored to our own economy. There have been some 60 trade deals since we left the community. Virtually all of them are simply rollovers of those said to be so prejudicial to our interests. There is a different one – with Australia – and this is to be phased in over many years, which tells you all you need to know about its threat to British farmers.

Of course, every tub-thumping orator knows the potency of the immigrant as a focus for discontent. Brexiteers played the card with ruthless efficiency. A million people got the message and left this country to return to their native homes. They were skilled and talented citizens who contributed significantly to our wealth and wellbeing.

Shortages in the labour market, and the vacancies in the health service, hospitality industry and agriculture, are the living evidence of this self-inflicted act. A clear consequence of the communications revolution has been to lay bare the stark contrasts in wealth across the globe.

Overwhelmingly, today’s immigrants are young, energetic and skilled. They are attracted by the sort of society we take for granted. They want to contribute to that society and make it a better place for themselves and their families.

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