When David Cameron announced his plan for an in-out referendum regarding EU membership in January 2013 at Bloomberg, no one could have envisioned the impact it would have for the several years after that infamous speech and for many years to come. What was widely viewed as a move to swing UKIP voters to the Conservative Party eventually ended his own premiership abruptly, alongside his former Home Secretary Theresa May.
The Leave campaign went against all the odds and achieved their goal. However, their win was tainted against a backdrop of lies and hypocrisy, already unravelling the day after the referendum. Nigel Farage immediately disowned the £350m pledge to spend on the NHS on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, despite never raising any concerns before the referendum. The argument that the British public had always yearned for change and it being the ‘will of the people’ is farcical. Evidenced in 2015 by YouGov, Europe was seen as the 7th most important issue for the electorate, highlighting how Euroscepticism had been curated and manifested within the minds of British public.
Even after the referendum win, lies have been spread by the proponents behind the Leave campaign and its supporters. The persistent message had been about the UK’s ability to negotiate its own free trade deals, no longer bounded by the shackles of the EU and its restrictive policy towards independent free trade agreements. Former Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox had promised in 2017 that “we’ll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019”. Two missed deadlines later, this so-called promise spectacularly failed. As of August 2019, only 13 deals have been agreed, with only 1 deal having been signed with a top 10 trading partner. In June 2019, Boris Johnson said that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are a “million-to-one against”, yet allocated an extra £2.1bn to no deal spending and has not made any significant progress towards renegotiating the “defunct” withdrawal agreement. The lies continue, with Boris Johnson and David Davis floating the idea that the UK could withhold the divorce bill payment if we left with no deal, as we would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice. Yet, the EU would almost certainly sue the UK in the international courts in the Hague, as the UK has entered into an international commitment as a sovereign state to pay the money. The most vocal critics of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in Davis and Raab raises a confusing question – how is it possible for the general public to have confidence in a bill that is opposed by two of its main curators?
The hypocrisy is endless, only amplifying under Boris Johnson’s leadership. Back in April 2016, Johnson criticised David Cameron spending £9m on EU leaflets sent to every household as a “complete waste of money”. However, under the guidance of Johnson, Sajid Javid green lit a £138m public information campaign about a no deal Brexit. Given the economic position the UK is currently in, ring fencing a ridiculously large sum of money towards an issue that was entirely made by Boris is beyond belief. The main premise of leaving the EU was to save money and create new opportunities for the UK outside of the EU. However, the endless bureaucracy, delay and uncertainty it has caused due to the actions of incompetent Brexiteers has decimated any hope for these aims to be achieved. Rather the UK has become a laughing stock, with the chaotic nature of its withdrawal cementing the erosion of its status as a key sovereign state.
Brexit was meant to economically benefit the UK, yet any hope of a prosperous post-Brexit economy has subsequently been destroyed. The irony of Michael Gove’s interview with BBC Four’s Today programme on 21st June 2016 is as amusing as it is depressing, stating that “the pound is at a higher level now than it was at the start of the campaign and I think that reflects certain robust truths about the British economy which if we vote to leave, we will be able to build on.” Fast forward to 9th August 2019, where the pound crashed down to €1.07. UK’s crippling position has been further undermined by its consistent pandering towards the US. Boris Johnson plead with the US to “compromise” in order to better any trade deal for the UK – the UK is now at the mercy of other nations, with any notion of regaining sovereignty a thing of the past. Johnson’s adamant and unwavering position on the backstop could lead to a hard border in Ireland. This could see the return of the days of the Economic War from 1932 to 1938, which severely impacted cross-border trade between the UK and Ireland.
Brexit is no longer a symbol of political reform and change in political discourse as it was back in 2016.
What was once dubbed as Project Fear has now become Project Reality, with the current government led by a divisive Brexiteer implicitly admitting to. The leaked Operation Yellowhammer report highlights possible queues for lorries lasting up to 2 and a half days at the channel crossing, shortages of medicine supplies and rising food prices to name just a few of the damning concerns. Brexit is no longer a symbol of political reform and change in political discourse as it was back in 2016. Now it has become the staple of chaos and a breeding ground for irrationality and stupidity. Johnson’s first speech as prime minister mentioned how he would “restore trust in our democracy”. However, requests from Boris surrounding the legality of proroguing Parliament to get Brexit across the line sets a dangerous precedent and immediately creates distrust towards his ability to act upon this quote. The weakening Brexit mandate cannot be passed via undemocratic means, serving as a paradox to the idea that it was a democratic decision. Bypassing the House of Commons, the cornerstone of British democracy, would defeat the very purpose of the people electing MPs to serve on their behalf.
Brexit has been lost in the sea of lies and hypocrisy, serving as a catalyst for division within the nation and its own demise. The charlatan PM has caused what was a relatively insignificant issue prior to 2016 to consume the future of the UK. The writing is now on the wall.