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5 years on, we finally know what Brexit means: a worse deal for everyone | Polly Toynbee

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5 years on, we finally know what Brexit means: a worse deal for everyone | Polly Toynbee

Five years ago today, in the early hours, Britain chanced on what it had carried out – and what had been carried out to it by the liars, charlatans and rogues who mis-sold Brexit as “taking back regulate”. The distress is as fresh as ever. Breaking apart political parties and reversing erstwhile red or blue wall seats is a minor matter, however Brexit’s explosive division of the country by social class, geography and a deep sense of personal identity is a lasting damage.

Few have changed their ideas: though polls place remain (or return) ahead by a nose, no person wants to be place via that hell again. Brexit is done for the foreseeable future, though a executive thriving on national disunity strives to abet it alive with infantile culture wars and “anti-woke” phoney patriotism. Polls give the Conservatives a 14-level lead, as they head into subsequent week’s Batley and Spen byelection. No shock, for what party in power may perhaps dream of a better boast than this: the vaccines are in fact bestowing the gift of staying alive on each citizen. And Britain is out ahead of different European nations: pollsters narrate me voters sincerely (though unjustly) imagine that had we remained in the EU, we couldn’t have had our gain programme. Regardless of EU vaccinators catching up, and the UK having more of us dead and more debt than they fabricate, Covid is tranquil a convenient quilt.

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But barely a day goes by without extra proofs of Brexit’s damage, some of it now forcing its way into the Tory press. This week, pigeon fanciers are barred from having their birds participate in nefarious-Channel races by fresh guidelines. Less area of interest is the alarming 17% upward push in food costs: Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, tells me Brexit costs and obstructions have sent commodity costs soaring, and these are now working their way on to the cabinets. The surprising £2bn fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in exactly the first quarter of this year is, Wright tells me, “no teething subject, however very real and sustained. Smaller corporations have stopped exporting”, overwhelmed by the fresh obstacles. The manager may turn a permanent blind peep to import tests starting subsequent week: “However that soon gets dangerous. When no person tests, who knows if imported food is what it says on the tin, and no longer, say, horse meat?”

Financial services and products are migrating to the EU: by March, Brexit had already driven away an estimated £1.3 tn of assets and jobs. By April, more than 440 finance corporations had fled, taking 10% of the UK’s financial sector assets, worth a staggering £900bn, while foreign funding subsides.

Boris Johnson’s hastily botched EU trade deal skipped over finance, in charge for 80% of our exports by value. It nearly stalled over fishing, a sector with lawful 12,000 jobs, but even that industry is wrecked – and the Categorical says so: “‘They’ve sold us down the fg river!’ British fishermen hit out on Brexit anniversary.” Wherever you behold, place a query to the same fable. The assault on the arts, music and broadcasting is lethal for a sector the place Britain excels. This week, the music industry has been begging for an end to the deadlock over EU touring, vital for its viability. Another thunderbolt struck this week with a file showing the EU is liable to enforce its guidelines limiting non-EU pronounce material in its broadcasting: nothing fresh right here, the EU is always strict on cultural protection against the US. That strips millions from financing for drama and other programmes, on high of BBC cuts and the imaginable privatisation of Channel 4.

Watch at almost any industry and you regain too considerable damage carried out to slot in this space: vanishing EU staff, no EU arrest warrant or crime data sharing, the lack of Erasmus, EU company handcuffed at our airports, and EU residents right here at possibility of being failed by the Dwelling Workplace, in a manner redolent of the Windrush scandal – a toxic message that will deter EU tourism.

As the Brexiters’ reckless unreadiness unfolds, the executive emerges devoid of basic policy. Is it for holding our farmers, manufacturers, steel or wind turbine makers, or is it for wild free trade, with the cheapest food and merchandise imported, regardless of dwelling industries? The Australia deal sold out farmers, with 60 instances more red meat imported subsequent year for a shrimp 0.02% GDP increase over 15 years.

Yesterday the sausages were kicked down the road, however it may perhaps handiest delay the Northern Ireland protocol disaster past the traumatic marching season. There’s an easy answer to food export dilemmas if a pig-headed high minister hadn’t appointed the mulish Lord Frost to block it: handiest ideology stops them agreeing to EU food standards, as we have agreed to EU employment and atmosphere norms. That have to tranquil alarm most voters who may no longer delight in an inalienable factual to lower food quality.

It’s high time Labour broke its silence on these calamities, and it may perhaps tranquil start factual there with food standards. It would be an easy recall. Had the Brexiters lost by a whisker 5 years ago, fabricate you judge they’d have quietly capitulated, any more than the SNP did after it lost in 2014? The omerta of Labour remainers has carried out them no favours, letting these Brexit car crashes pile up unopposed. Factual, Brexit is electoral dynamite that Johnson plans to use for ever, however that’s why Labour wants to make a stand now. There’s no reopening the referendum, it may perhaps tranquil lawful target the failed trade deal. Polls reveal the general public knows how bad it’s miles, Strathclyde university’s Prof John Curtice chanced on that even among leave voters, handiest one in three thinks it a perfect deal.

Emily Thornberry, shadowing on trade, sees that large-originate goal. “Be grown-up and pragmatic,” she says. “We need a perfect deal. We can make the handiest of Brexit, while they’ve made the worst of it.” So far Covid shrouds the outcomes, driving the EU trade deal’s disasters from most front pages. However on all the issues from farming, manufacturing and finance to entertainment and food the executive is vulnerable and culpable, if Labour would shake off its paralysing Brexit-phobia.

  • Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

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5 years on, we finally know what Brexit means: a worse deal for everyone | Polly Toynbee