Public opinion on the Leave vote may be turning, but the PM faces no real oppositionby Oliver Kamm / April 28, 2017 / Leave a comment
More Britons oppose Brexit than welcome it. That’s the finding of a Times/YouGov poll published this week: 45 per cent of voters believe that, with hindsight, the referendum vote was a mistake, whereas 43 per cent support it. The poll may be a statistical blip. Perhaps British voters, despite the narrow majority for Brexit last June, are so committed to that outcome that they’ll bear heavy costs to secure it. But my hunch is that many voters opted for Brexit in the belief that it would have no costs at all. On that point, they are certain to be disappointed.
A cautionary tale of the effects of Brexit appeared the day after the votes were cast. The leader of Cornwall’s council said that the authority would be taking “urgent steps to ensure that the UK Government protects Cornwall’s position in any negotiations.” EU subsidies for the Cornish economy have amounted to an average of £60m a year over the last ten years. Cornish voters went decisively for Brexit in the referendum, by 57 per cent to 43 per cent. Were they under the impression that the EU would continue the subventions even while the UK dispensed with the obligations of membership? The most rational explanation is that they were.
Similarly, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has admitted that British workers will not be able to fill jobs currently done by EU migrants for “years and years,” and hence that Britain will continue to admit low-skilled migrant workers in hospitality, agriculture and social care. Were Brexit voters, determined that Britain should “take back control” of its borders, aware that this would happen? It is all but certain that they were not.
Of course Britain can prosper outside the EU. What it cannot do is enjoy all the current benefits of EU membership without paying the costs. Almost all economists warned what the costs would be, even if the magnitude of these is as yet unknowable. The costs will consist in lower output and less efficiency than would otherwise be the case, because of reduced flows of goods, services, investment and labour. The economic mechanisms by which open trade—the elimination of non-tariff barriers within a single market, and not only the removal…