A survey by Unherd and Focaldata asked voters across England, Scotland and Wales whether ‘Britain was wrong to leave the EU’ and in all but three of 632 constituencies, more people now agree than disagree.
As it happens, the three constituencies that are still in favour of having left – Boston & Skegness, South Holland & the Deepings, and Louth & Horncastle – are all in Lincolnshire, England’s second largest county which sprawls around the Wash.
In his recent book ‘Edge of England’ on this enigmatic area, author Derek Turner dubbed Lincolnshire ‘England’s forgotten county’. It was perhaps something of a prophetic insight and, having reviewed it for Central Bylines, it seems to me there are undoubtedly some answers as to why this should be so, lurking within its pages.
Despite holding on to the number one anti-Europe spot though, the number of people in Boston & Skegness follows the survey’s national trend. Those expressing faith in Brexit have fallen from 75% at the time of the referendum in 2016 to 41% now, just four percentage points above those agreeing Britain was wrong to leave the EU.
Once, we felt properly governed
In the past, one could say that by and large the UK was properly governed and MPs in the main were public servants. Indeed, leaving the EU was hardly in the minds of the British general public until it was elevated to the top of the political agenda by Prime Minister of the day, David Cameron at the beginning of 2016, for party political reasons.
In one way, it was a politically-naive way to silence a small but increasingly vocal anti-Europe brigade on the fringes of the Conservative party and in UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).
But it was also a handy smokescreen for those with vested interests who felt threatened by a soon-to-be-introduced EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive to control offshore tax havens, including questionable tax dealings by either those holding power or those wealthy enough to influence it. That certainly would help explain a lot of things.
Today many MPs, though not all, particularly those serving in the current cabinet, look like they are there to best their own personal influence and financial self-reward.
Promise much, deliver nothing
As the UK marks the third anniversary of having left the EU, it is not Brexit per se that has done the real damage but the incompetence and ignorance of politician after jingoistic politician who have proclaimed much but delivered nothing.
Figures released today (31 January) reveal the UK is the only leading economy likely to fall into recession this year, and this even behind Russia! The IMF forecasts that the UK economy will shrink 0.6% in 2023 as it is weighed down by the disadvantages of having left the European single market, combined with a toxic mix of sky high energy prices, rising mortgages and higher taxes.
It all adds up to a very bleak forecast for a vacuous government without a long term plan that pinned its hopes on ‘recovery’ and it leaves Rishi Sunak, the country’s third Tory prime minister in a year, mired in the sleaze and false rhetoric of his predecessors, particularly Boris Johnson.
No New Dawn, No New Age
In the real world away from the world of Westminster, one business person after another describes Brexit and the form it has taken as an unmitigated disaster for the country.
Entrepreneur and business leader Deborah Meaden, who regularly features on the TV programme ‘Dragon’s Den’, says: “Brexit is definitely a factor in 99% of businesses that I talk to. They are suffering, they’re bewildered.”
In the 2016 vote, Brexiteers got what they wanted. But despite the extensive promises, it hasn’t heralded a new dawn or a new age of prosperity for the country. Instead Brexit is costing the UK economy a million pounds per hour; it means the UK has around £20 billion a year less available for public spending; and it has lost around 330,000 workers from the UK economy.
After more than a dozen years of Conservative-controlled majority government, the country and its economy is in very poor shape. Promises are never going to be delivered, and the lies about the benefits of Brexit told during the referendum campaign and repeated ad nauseam since, only add to the image of deceitfulness at the very heart of this hard Brexit government.
Meanwhile, the government is preparing later this year to delete thousands of laws that largely benefit the ordinary people of this country, including the right to compensation for delayed trains or flights, the right to paid annual leave, equal pay and bank holidays, parental leave and pay and pension protection when a company goes bust.
These things won’t affect the super-wealthy but they will affect everyone else. Is it really what people voted for back in 2016? Probably not, given the results of the poll discussed at the beginning of this piece.
Time to turn a corner?
As the latest figures show, decline for the UK is now very real and continued Brexit denial will no longer cut it. Perhaps a corner is being turned at last as people finally realise what has been foisted on them.
Brexit doesn’t necessarily need to be undone wholesale but the country does need to rejoin the single market – and as soon as possible.
Such a dramatic reset to the country’s political direction and agenda might only be delivered in one of two ways – a General Strike that brings down the current government, or an unscheduled General Election after a vote of no confidence in which enough MPs decide to put the country and its future first for once. What is certain however, is that the UK urgently, urgently needs mature, proper politicians who are going to pave the way for the country to rebuild and prosper.