The British Steel crisis shows why it’s time to bin Brexit – and the Brexit Party

Scunthorpe Steelworks. Picture by Nick Parkin (CC BY 2.0)

Joe Chucas

It was announced today that British Steel has gone into liquidation, putting 5,000 jobs at risk and endangering 20,000 more in the supply chain.

The firm had been struggling with the weakness of the pound since the EU referendum, and the run-up to Brexit had caused a slump in orders from European customers.

This is just the start of the economic peril Brexit will put us in, and yet tomorrow hundreds of thousands of working men and women – just like those who work for British Steel – will vote for a party calling for the hardest Brexit possible.

It’s estimated that Brexit has already cost around £1,000 for every person in the country over the past three years.

Yet for all the empty slogans such as ‘Brexit means Brexit’ it is now abundantly clear that nobody had a workable plan to leave the EU in a way that leaves anyone better off.

Brexit has taken its toll on the economy in the form of a sharp drop in the value of the pound, wasted money on contingency planning and has led to lower household income due to inflation.

Companies are leaving the UK, downsizing and cutting jobs. The Bank of England and Goldman Sachs estimate that the UK has lost out on £600m-800m of economic growth a week.

No point

‘You lost, get over it’ is the retort by those who want Brexit no matter what misery it causes to British workers.

But after three years of wasted time, money and effort for something delivering no discernible benefits, that’s no longer a winning argument. It’s just a con.

The reason that people resort to this line of thinking is that nobody can tell you what they actually want out of Brexit. There is no clear point to Brexit, and none of the fairy tales that you’ll hear from ‘Leave means Leave’ add up to a hill of beans.

There’s no £350m a week for the NHS, the mounting trade deals have not materialised, and Theresa May’s ‘Brexit dividend’ has been conclusively and thoroughly debunked.

Bizarrely, genuine concerns for economic welfare are dismissed as ‘Project Fear’. Brexit appears to be more about one team ‘winning’, however pyrrhic the victory as living standards, business supply chains, UK manufacturing and the NHS go down the drain.

No faith

People can’t be blamed for voting Brexit in the first place. It’s clear why people are unhappy with the political establishment, particularly Westminster.

Politicians are among the least trusted profession in Britain, and two out of three people do not feel represented by political parties.

But as a result of that disengagement from politics, a two-party state and tabloid media, the British public have been misled by a populist project based on lies.

It’s very telling that deprived areas were hugely more likely to vote Leave. These are the places that have been left behind by modern politics and, rather than offering solutions, politicians have deflected criticism by blaming others.

Areas such as the south of Wales valleys and the North-East of England were fed the illusion of an imagined EU tyranny and workshy immigrants by tabloid media.

The irony is of course that the EU has a far more democratic voting system that the UK, and that the net fiscal impact of EU immigrants is positive. EU migrants contribute £1.34 for every £1 they take from the public purse.

Wales currently receives around £680 million of EU funds every year – and that’s more than we put in.

Any macro-economist will concede that there are legitimate issues with the EU, but the incredibly vague, misleading or outright duplicitous claims made before the Brexit referendum do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plan

After more than 1000 days of pandering to the Eurosceptic nonsense of politicians such as Nigel Farage, it is time to move on in a way that has the welfare of the whole populace in mind.

Those denouncing a second referendum as ‘undemocratic’ should consider that three years is as long as some countries’ parliamentary terms.

Democracy doesn’t mean accepting the result of one vote and never being able to challenge it, whatever the dire consequences.

Brexit has so far been a waste of valuable money that could have been spent on the environment, education, health and transport.

It is now clear that nobody in parliament has a workable plan that will unite the House of Commons. The only solution is to put the final decision back to a public that has been previously conned by misinformation and deceit.

The electorate – which was woefully misinformed by their political class at the time of the referendum – should now see that the problems are not at Brussels, but at Westminster.

The misplaced anger of the UK public should be turned on them, and insist that they turn their attention to things that matter; such as child poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation, and our creaking infrastructure.


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