Larry Elliott makes two main arguments in his article (I’ve got news for those who say Brexit is a disaster: it isn’t. That’s why rejoining is just a pipe dream, 5 December). He’s wrong on both.
His first point is that the EU is faltering and the UK is recovering more quickly from global headwinds. However, he is using the wrong comparison. We should not compare the UK with the EU, but with what the UK would have been like without Brexit. The opportunity cost, not the relative comparison, is the relevant factor. And on this correct measure, Brexit is deeply damaging to the UK economy.
The Office for Budget Responsibility is crystal clear on this point – it expects long-run productivity to reduce by 4%, and imports and exports by 15%; and new trade deals will not have a material impact. Worse, the damage will accrue for many years to come – not just in sales lost and companies that have already folded, but in businesses that will never be set up and developments that will never take place.
The second point Elliott makes is that the UK has avoided the rise of far-right parties such as the Alternative for Germany party or the Freedom party in the Netherlands. On this point, I can only imagine that he is being wilfully blind. The Tories are the functional substitute for the European far-right parties. They have dealt with the rise of the far right by adopting its language, policies, presentation and contempt for norms and governance. It is disturbing that Elliott ignores this in favour of spurious pro-Brexit arguments.
• Larry Elliott’s excellent article highlighted real challenges to those of us who persist in campaigning to overturn Brexit. But he did not mention the educational and wider political identity that being part of the EU confers.
I have just returned from a conference in Italy to discuss progress towards a pan-European graduate-tracking study that will monitor graduate careers and migration among member states and beyond. We used to be able to compare similar UK employment statistics with those of other European countries as part of the EU-funded Eurostat, but the UK is not included any more. And that’s only one area of social science research. Think about all the scientific, political, humanities and arts research, and opportunities for knowledge exchange that have been affected by Brexit, not to mention the wider cultural restrictions in the performance arts.
Academics cannot so easily work with their European colleagues and we have seen a significant exit of European scholars from British universities. Our children can’t participate in the Erasmus undergraduate exchanges either.
Hopefully some of these disadvantages can be ameliorated after a change of government, but in the short term, they have been costly. The UK is a group of small islands just off the coast of Europe and our long-term interests surely lie in Europe. We should be in there, in support of other Europeans who are fighting the rise of the far right.
• I agree with Larry Elliott. Playing political hokey cokey around membership of the EU will be a disaster. The problem with making Brexit a success is that the political, economic and business establishments don’t accept his analysis of the underlying weaknesses of the UK economy, particularly the punishing impact of a combination of economic inequality, stagnated growth and a chronic inability to invest in the future by the state and the market.
We need an alternative to the neoliberal economics that has led the country to absorb such absurdities as water firms dumping raw sewage into our rivers, for which no one can be held to account. On the flip side, if you advocate for models of public ownership for our utilities, which are the norm in the six founding EU nations, you are painted as a dangerous radical.
Labour’s position seems to be that bringing us back to a state of pre-Brexit orthodoxy will sort out the economy. I think Elliott would agree that that is flawed. We need an alternative. It’s not coming from the main two-party system. Brexit was led by the extreme right and was an anti-immigration vote. But for Brexit to work, we need something way more progressive than Keir Starmer’s Labour, and that is unlikely to emerge from our two-party system, which is tied at the hip to the dogma of neoliberal economics.
Cllr Mark Blake
Independent Socialists, Haringey council, London
• Larry Elliott writes that Brexit “isn’t a disaster” for the economy. He’s right, but perhaps not in the way that he thinks. Mainstream economics would not characterise Brexit as disastrous for growth. Rather, Brexit is an inversion of Dave Brailsford’s maxim of “marginal gains” – the wildly successful sporting philosophy that saw British champions triumph at the Tour de France.
If the UK economy were a cyclist competing in the Tour d’Europe, she wouldn’t be totally unfit – but she would be subject to a series of “marginal losses”, struggling at the back of the peloton, envious of her less-afflicted competitors. Eventually, she’d probably fire her manager, and strive to undo the marginal losses that impair competitiveness.
Principal economist, European Central Bank, and former economist, Bank of England
• I had the most overwhelming feeling of sadness on reading Larry Elliott’s article. As the child of a displaced person who couldn’t get back to her own country after the second world war, but was welcomed in the UK even though she was German, I felt totally rejected by the country of my birth.
My mum came here without a word of English and only the clothes she stood up in. She was given a job in a cotton mill and eventually taught herself enough English to be able to train as a nurse. She embraced life here. She came not even knowing if she would ever see her family again. My heart bursts with pride at her bravery and determination. Now, thanks to Brexit, I feel people like her would be vilified and despised. Like millions of others fleeing conflict and persecution, all Mum wanted was a home and a life – and the UK gave her that. Mr Elliott doesn’t look at the bigger picture.
Newton Abbot, Devon
• One glaring omission from Larry Elliott’s article is the ways in which Brexit has made things better. Privacy? Human rights? Trade? Water quality? Roaming charges? Staff shortages? Food prices? Trust in politics? A policy that has made almost everything worse and made nothing better can’t be anything other than a disaster.
• So Brexit is only a partial disaster. That’s all right then.
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