Brexit didn’t just cost us money: it robbed us of solidarity in times of crisis | William Kegan


BThe rexit was always going to be a geopolitical and economic disaster – a once-proud nation cutting off its nose for spite of its face. The daily tragedy of Putin’s devastation of Ukraine has exposed the myopia of Johnson’s geopolitical misjudgment in leaving the European Union.

As Michael Heseltine, a great one-nation conservative, puts it: “Our continent faces a threat as grave as anything since the end of the Cold War. I am ashamed that the country which, in my lifetime, saved European democracy is now absent, and that others must now determine Europe’s response.

I’m sure my old friend, the good Lord Heseltine, means no disrespect to the ‘others’ – our former EU partners. Like millions, he would like us to be there as Europe unites in the face of the crisis. How ironic that the members of the former Soviet bloc, whom we encouraged to join the EU, are still there, when the bar joke is: who will join the EU first – the UK or the Ukraine?

The Brexit-induced economic disaster in the UK has not gone away simply because attention is understandably devoted to what is happening in Ukraine. And, of course, Pelion was piled on top of Ossa with the additional economic damage wrought by Putin’s onslaught: worsening energy supply shortages and the concomitant rise in an already worrying rate of inflation. It will be a difficult year for the British and many other economies.

The economic damage caused to the Russian people by this invasion will be much worse. For the sake of his mad goals, Putin is ready to inflict untold damage on his own people, as well as on Ukrainians.

Now, to disconnect from these daily horrors, I like to read and reread novels. I just reread Reuben, Reuben by the little-known American comedian – in this country – Peter De Vries.

In the first part, the narrator – one Spofford, a New England chicken farmer – laments the outcome of the family’s decision not to sell chickens to “New York commuters”.

“Since commuters made up two-thirds of our business,” Spofford explains, “Einstein must not understand what this retaliation is costing us. Talk about cutting off your nose despite [sic] your face.”

Johnson, Farage and their Brexit cronies – encouraged by Putin and his pals – successfully tricked the British electorate into voting Leave and thus walking away from the world’s largest barrier-free market when it was only 21 miles away. The UK economy hasn’t exactly lost two-thirds of its business, but it’s now widely recognized that the hit has been substantial, with exports nearly 20% lower than would have been expected in the absence of the Brexit. Moreover, Chancellor Sunak’s numerous demands on the budget are not exactly mitigated by the tax revenue impact of a Brexit-induced 4% reduction in GDP. The result? Unpleasant cuts in essential services.

Which brings us to the Chancellor’s recent statement at the annual But. Amid the usual platitudes about increasing productivity and lowering taxes, Brexiter Sunak emphasized “a simple and enduring proposition: that the best way to organize our economy is around free market principles. “.

To find? So we leave the best free market we have ever participated in – and helped build – to enjoy mysterious “freedoms” (since when, by the way, was “freedom” plural?), and the key to future economic progress is an “investment”. In a passage that elicited hollow laughter, Sunak asked, “Why is the investment so low?” He added: “The problem is no longer the government: companies are simply not investing enough.”

Now, a look at a number of surveys should have told the Chancellor that the main reason companies are not investing enough is that they have been hit by Brexit. It comes up over and over again.

Which brings us back to the main culprit. The government has decided that we just have to live with the virus; and people conclude that the bad wind from Moscow means that for the time being we must also continue to live with “the Johnsons”. But the indictment has not gone away, as is recalled when the prime minister complains that Putin is breaking international law. It takes one to know one.

As a student of Latin, Johnson is no doubt familiar with this great observation from Tacitus. stories about another incompetent leader, Emperor Galba: “Maior privato visus dum privatus flees, et omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset.(“He seemed much larger than a private citizen when he was one, and if he had never been the head of government, everyone would have agreed that he was fit to govern.” )


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