This Article was first published on The Commentator
In recent weeks, Tony Blair has said: “It is possible now that Brexit doesn’t happen…I think it’s absolutely necessary that it doesn’t happen.”
The former Prime Minster has also said the EU would be prepared to meet us halfway on freedom of movement. At best this could be described as a pipedream.
Blair is possibly one of the most reviled figures in contemporary British politics — on both sides of the spectrum. Despite, this he still feels the need to try and stay relevant.
This addiction to power and influence at any cost was the attitude that caused his tenure as PM to do so much damage to the UK. Indeed, his chequered legacy still lingers on — the high court just this week blocked an attempt to privately prosecute Blair.
Now, he seeks to do even more damage to his reputation — and everyone else’s well-being — by playing his part in a movement to overturn a democratic vote.
The famous adage ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’ is becoming more and more prescient to the goals of Remoaners like Blair. Members of the Cabinet like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond; Members of Parliament like Labour’s Chuka Ummuna; and well known figures like Richard Branson, George Soros and the now notorious Brexit litigator, Gina Miller, are all trying to steer the United Kingdom towards a ‘soft Brexit’, or even to reverse the Brexit process all together.
This would be unambiguously bad for the UK.
First of all, the use of the term ‘soft Brexit’ is entirely misleading. Soft Brexit has connotations which imply it is somehow superior, less disruptive and a wholly more tolerable version of Brexit. Hard-Brexit has connotations which imply coarseness, instability and a certain recklessness.
Soft-Brexit sounds more appealing. It feels like the policy the Government should be pursuing. Politics is easily swayed by appeals to emotion, which often bear no resemblance to policy outcomes.
This presents a clear and present danger to the Brexit process.
Soft-Brexiteers and Remainers argue a hard-Brexit would be one whereby the most disruption would be caused in the short term, and in the longer term the most damage would be done to the UK’s overall prosperity. They claim a soft-Brexit would therefore be the least disruptive in the short term and maximise the UK’s prosperity over the long term.
The distinction here between short term and long term is crucial. Especially volatile, and for this reason superficial, economic indicators such as the exchange rate and the stock market would probably take a dive in the short term if a ‘no deal’ scenario is reached. This could apply to a hard-Brexit, even one with a deal. In the short term, investment and consumption may well take a brief dip as consumers and businesses respond to a sense of uncertainty.
However, indicators such as the exchange rate and the stock market have little effect on the economy overall. Proof of this can be seen in how the UK economy has performed since the EU Referendum. The value of the Pound has fallen significantly, squeezing consumers through inflation, but this has helped exporting manufacturers.
The stock market also fell after the referendum result, but has long since recovered its ground. Not once during the fluctuations of these economic indicators — which were much vaunted at the time as evidence of the economy’s impending doom — did the UK ever look like slipping into recession.
The stalling we might see in investment and consumption, would soon abate when the realisation sinks in things are not so bad after all, even in the case of a ‘no deal’ outcome. It is worth noting the United States is the UK’s single largest export destination, and provides the most inward investment, all this while currently trading on WTO rules.
Therefore, it is possible a so-called ‘hard-Brexit’ may cause a measure of disruption and volatility in the short term. However, this would not have a prolonged or outsized impact on the economy. Not least due to the above points, but also because of the queue of countries who have shown their keen interest to strike trade deals with the UK after Brexit: The United States; Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Canada, to name some of the most prominent.
In the longer term, a soft-Brexit would be, in fact, the most painful Brexit. It would have the most toxic effect on our economy. A soft-Brexit of the sort currently being touted, trades a longer term increase in growth potential, through bespoke trade agreements and regulatory sovereignty, for a short term reduction in uncertainty. Which would have, frankly, negligible positive effects on the economy.
If the UK were to pursue a soft-Brexit it might get the certainty and continuity Remainers so desperately desire, but at what cost?
A soft Brexit, in its most plausible form, would sacrifice control of our borders — we would still have to accept the EU’s freedom of movement. Let’s not forget one of the key reasons the electorate voted for ‘Leave’ was control over our own borders.
It would also sacrifice judicial sovereignty — the ECJ would take precedence in a vast array of legal matters. We would also lose whatever say we had on polices which are made in Brussels resulting in our failure to retrieve the sovereignty we’ve ceded to the EU over the course of our membership, which was another key reason why the electorate voted for Brexit.
Furthermore, if we decided to stay in the Customs Union we would also lose the ability to maximally prosper after our departure through trade deals.
A soft-Brexit would therefore put us in almost as bad a position as before the EU Referendum itself. It would, in fact, be the most painful of all Brexit’s. It would clearly be the worst option for Britain to take.
Blair and other Remoaners must know this. It seems their utterings about the need for a soft-Brexit — or even simply a reversal of the Brexit process –are rooted not so much in the spirit of what’s now best for the UK, but a petulant attempt to make sure the Brexit process flounders in such a way they would able to smugly eulogise: ‘We told you so’.
It is these insidious intentions which pose a huge stumbling block to getting the best Brexit deal for the United Kingdom. This needs to be fought at every turn.
Until we finally Get Britain Out, and put Blair and his cronies in their place, on terms which represent a real Brexit, we have to stay vigilant and keep the Government in check.
Jack Tagholm-Child is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out