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Was It All Just a Waste of Time & Money?

Unanswerable Questions for Brexiters #3


It seems that all the people who were clamouring for a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union didn’t think the implications for peace in Northern Ireland through – and nor did David Cameron’s Conservative & Unionist Party when they granted us a referendum on the matter. Because, as is now clear, our options for leaving the EU are far narrower and less attractive than was apparent a year ago.


One of the Brexiters’ main arguments for leaving the EU is that we’ll be able to make trade deals on our own. The problem that has now become apparent (as explained in the first article in this series) is that, if the UK’s trade policy diverges too much from the EU’s, we’ll need a border between us and the EU – and there’s nowhere politically acceptable for it to go.


The only remaining option available to us seems to be to keep our regulatory regime close to the EU’s, which in plain English means following the EU’s rules without being able to decide what those rules are. Oh, and paying a £40 billion pound ‘divorce bill’ for the privilege.


At which point one has to ask: Was it all just a waste of time and money?


We’ve spent tens of millions of pounds on the referendum and hundreds of millions preparing for a Brexit that is looking less of a good idea with each passing day. And that’s not to mention the costs of the lower value of the pound and the damage to the UK’s economy caused by post-referendum uncertainty.


And what have we got in return? The prospect of a deal that looks worse than the one we have today, or a deal that creates a hard border in Northern Ireland – with whatever problems that will create or re-enflame.


Which is why this question is unanswerable to a Brexiter – they can’t (or won’t) say it’s all been a waste of time and money, but (other than Article 50 being triggered and an agreement to move on to the second, even more difficult, stage of negotiations) they can’t say what, if anything, we’ve gained for our efforts so far.


Original image source: Wikimedia

Matthew Wherry

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Matthew is Impolite Conversation's editor.


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