Brexit article - an act of national self-immolation

Today Progress published my latest article on Brexit - "An act of national self-immolation".

I argue that the economic and social grievances that aroused the anger of Leave voters were not caused by the European Union and will not be dealt with by Brexit:

My concern is that in giving the government a blank cheque now, Labour will not share any of the credit for delivering on the ‘will of the people’, but certainly will share in the blame when it goes wrong.

The government cannot meet raised expectations on immigration that were stoked by the Leave campaign without severe economic pain. Let us consider what will happen if we significantly cut migration from Europe. Who will pay for our public services and our huge pension bill? Who will do the jobs that our indigenous population either cannot or will not do in almost every sector from finance to social care?

We need to look at the facts. Even if the government scraps freedom of movement from Europe and implements a draconian border regime they cannot sate the desires of the hard Brexiteers. Over half of all migrants come from outside of the EU, visas will be the quid pro quo of any future trade agreement and businesses will insist on the continued ability to hire from overseas to plug skills gaps.

And what will happen if negotiations do not go smoothly or we are forced into concessions by Europe – for example over budget contributions – in the face of a perfect storm of hard-Brexit backbench Tories and a rabid rightwing press? What will happen when – as night follows day – quitting the single market and customs union delivers a shock to our fragile economy? The playbook is simple and has already been written – blame the ‘Remoaners’, the ‘enemies of the people’, the Brussels Eurocrats and the immigrants.

There is a huge elephant in the room here that the government have failed to come clean with the public about since last June. Europe was never actually responsible for the things that made many Leave voters angry. Brussels and immigrants were made the scapegoat for social and economic problems that were not caused by the EU and certainly will not be solved by an act of national self-immolation on this unprecedented scale.

‘We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success’. The die is cast, and the juggernaut continues to gather momentum. When it all comes crashing down, perhaps we will look back and wish that we had done differently while we still had the chance.

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