Thank goodness... sense at last on Brexit

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, cries during the launch of Labour's general election manifesto on June 13
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


It has taken a few weeks, but the ‘B’ word was finally rolled out in this year’s General Election campaign: Brexit.

Our exit from the European Union is the elephant in the room in this election, and one of the main drivers for many of the factors pushing the Conservatives to record-low polling ahead of the July 4 ballot. From Theresa May’s ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ to Boris’s ‘Get Brexit Done’, the last two elections were pinned down by the issue of our relationship with the EU, and how it might be undone.

Now, in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, our new-found freedom and sovereignty has made the cost of living crisis dramatically worse, instead of freeing us up to solve our own problems. While the Liberal Democrats have bravely said all along that they think we are better off inside the EU, which the events of the past few years all but bear out as true, Labour began to take their first tentative steps toward suggesting that actually having a decent relationship with the massive trading bloc on our doorstep might not be a terrible idea.

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Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves – possibly emboldened by polls that have her party not just in the lead, but all but out of sight – suggested that she would try and improve parts of our trading relationship with the EU, instead of being so adversarial. Thank goodness we now have someone talking a bit of sense at long last.

While Nigel Farage might seek to suggest that either we have the wrong kind of Brexit, or that those dastardly Tories have gone and done it all wrong, there are few reasons to think he might be right and this was a good idea badly executed all along. It was just a bad idea to begin with.

Several stories last week provide some examples of the reality of the mess we have created for ourselves, and which seemingly few politicians want to admit, because it was the public that backed it as a good idea (albeit by a slender margin).

Firstly was the example of the Italian truck driver who was carrying plants, and ended up being stopped at a customs check for 19 hours with no access to food or rest facilities. There was a waiting room with a water dispenser, but when asked where he might get something to eat, he was told he was welcome to walk the several miles to the nearest McDonalds.

Then, in the aftermath of that, a Dutch haulage firm suggested they were on the verge of quitting trips to the UK altogether over the slow and painful customs process which is now in place as the checks on food and other goods, which have been put off for years, now apply.

While inflation has apparently turned a corner, the hike in prices is not going to be reversed, which means higher costs are now a permanent fixture of our lives. Once the effect of the new checks filters through, there could even be a new round of inflation, as almost everything in the shops that comes from the EU goes up in price.

While Brexit is never going to be reversed in any meaningful way, we should at least have a grown-up conversation about the long-term effects on our lives and our future that it has brought about. Then, maybe, some mitigation may be possible, if we can get our heads out of the sand for long enough.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect is the speculation of who might be left to lead the Conservative Party should the polls be correct and they are left with a tiny number of MPs.

While it was the public which voted for Brexit, the reality of leaving the EU could be driving out the party which offered voters that chance in the first place. You really couldn’t make it up.

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