Britain’s exit from the EU will be impossibly complicated. Both parties can forget their ambitious manifesto pledges; they won’t have the time, or resources, to implement themby Anand Menon / June 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
So much for the Brexit election. For all that Theresa May spoke of nothing else when announcing her intention to seek the dissolution of Parliament. For all the hopes of the Liberal Democrats that they might profit from “remoaner” resentment. For all the continued divisions over the issue. For all the crucial importance of Brexit for our future. Despite all of this, the big Brexit election debate simply never happened.
Partly, this was down to events. The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London and the Tory cock-up over social care both shifted the agenda. Partly, however, it happened by design. Labour, of course, never wanted to talk about Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn, let’s face it, wasn’t comfortable talking about the EU even during the referendum campaign. More significantly, while the Prime Minister wanted a Brexit election, this was intended in the narrow sense of a debate about who should lead the negotiations. What she absolutely did not have in mind was a proper debate about what different models of exit might mean.
This was understandable. The last thing the PM wanted was to be forced into making promises she could not keep. “No deal is better than a bad deal” is meaningless enough to commit her to nothing at all. She will, it would seem, have pretty much a free hand once the negotiations start.
It was also, however, short sighted and reckless. Some ten days before the start of negotiations, the British people are still being told to expect the impossible. Labour pledges to maintain the benefits of the single market while ending free movement. The Conservatives insist that they can sign a great deal with the EU, and if they can’t, no deal would be fine.
Yet at some point, expectations will have to be managed. Even if Brexit goes well, the model spelled out by the Conservatives will have significant economic consequences. Leaving the single market and the customs union will hit our trade with the EU badly—some economists reckon to the tune of a 40 per cent decrease. It will also, almost certainly, lead to a decrease in foreign investment. And of course reducing immigration – whether to the levels the Conservative foresee or not—will also have an impact on the public finances.
“Are ambitious plans for…