Brexit, oh Brexit: From Leave shock to renegotiation stand-off

Brexit, oh Brexit: From Leave shock to renegotiation stand-off
4 min read
26 Feb, 2019
One reader tells of his European experience.
The Leave campaign promised undeliverable pledges and have blamed 'Remainers' for failing to deliver [Getty]
What a dreary place London was in 1980 when I first moved here from Africa. The 1974-1979 Labour government needed Denis Healey to go to the International Monetary Fund for a $3.9 billion loan as the country went bankrupt. 

Margaret Thatcher became the prime minister with many challenges to overcome. The unions were very powerful with industrial strikes commonplace. This was a time that a hamburger was a simple minced meat patty in a white bun with nothing more. When fish and chip shops flourished everywhere and a pint of beer cost 35 pence. When you needed a plumber or for a British Telecom engineer to connect your telephone, you had to wait two weeks before an appointment was available - and on the day the engineer would probably not arrive.

Great Britain was in decline and struggling to come to terms with its shrinking empire.

But the Conservatives and later New Labour took control of managing the economy and the UK bounced back to prosperity and enterprise was engineered that was to last until today.

The UK had a referendum in 1975 and voted "Yes" to stay in the European Community. The European Union developed and the Maastricht Treaty was agreed in 1992, allowing the free movement of people. There was a huge influx of Europeans to the UK. Plumbers, electricians and general builders competed with locals for work.

A food revolution began with a strong European influence. The UK now has 180 Michelin-starred restaurants. The City of London created vast wealth for Londoners doing business in the EU and a huge amounts of taxes are paid to the Inland Revenue from these profits. European doctors, dentists and nurses arrived and contributed to running the National Health Service. Labourers picked fruit and built housing. Exports like cars and other goods were sent tariff-free all over Europe as were imports received.

Most importantly, there have been no wars between European member states.


And then David Cameron called a referendum in 2016. The result of a promise he made during the 2015 election to hold his Conservative Party together. The right-wing of the party is Eurosceptic and disgruntled. He did not ever think he would have to keep his promise, as he expected another coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

But to his surprise he won the election and so had to call the referendum. Even then he thought it not that much of a problem - as surely he would be backed when putting forward the Remain argument. Surely?

The Remain campaign was complacent. The Leave (pro Brexit) campaign kicked into action and fought a very clever campaign with the slogan of "Take Back Control". They managed to tell the electorate that immigration would increase if the UK remained - especially because Turkey would eventually join the EU.

The campaign said the UK's financial contribution to the EU would be saved and that £350 million per week would become available which could be spent on the NHS. Quick and easy trade deals would be done not only with EU nations but the whole world. Britain would take control of North Sea fishing. The UK would owe no money to the EU on Brexit day. High-tech solutions would solve border control issues. There would be no role for the European Court of Justice. The Brexit process would be easy and have no downsides.

Exactly none of these promises have been kept. The Leave campaign was supported by wealthy older people and appealed to less educated nostalgic poorer people. The very same people demographically who support Donald Trump and other populist politicians around the world.

So Brexit negotiations are now in deadlock, as is the British parliament. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said last week: "I have been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan on how to carry it out safely."

Perhaps his choice of words were not the most diplomatic, but considering the dangers of a "no deal" Brexit he may have a fair point.


The New Arab reader Dr Ron Baise has been a dental practice owner in London since 1985 and is now a fully private dentist. He has been a post-graduate teacher and has published articles on dental matters.​


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