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No, Larry. Brexit is a disaster

Another Europe NC's Dave Levy responds to Larry Elliot's Guardian piece

On 5th December the Guardian newspaper ran a rather provocative piece by Larry Elliot, which was bound to rile up those on the progressive side of Remain/Rejoin.

This article contains the same myopia that all those who support Brexit use. The choice of statistics is partial and designed to support a case, although the argument ‘It’s not as bad as Remainers forecast’ is not a compelling case

There can be no denying that the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ has led to reduced foreign inward investment, a worsening real balance of trade, reduced employment, a labour shortage in many industries, particularly social care, agriculture, hospitality and the NHS, and sterling has lost value against both the dollar and the euro.  

The OBR have forecast that Brexit has and will cost the UK economy 4% GDP which is about central to the independent forecasts made in 2016.

On inequality, we should also note that the Gini coefficient measuring inequality has risen by 6.9% since 2016 and the Resolution Foundation’s Stagnation Nation report, says,

Low-income households in the UK are now 22 per cent poorer than their counterparts in France, and 21 per cent poorer than low-income households in Germany. It’s important to comprehend just how material these gaps are: the living standards of the lowest-income households in the UK are £3,800 lower than their French equivalents (Source Statista)

Larry Elliot talks of inward investment; for every Nissan who’ve stayed, there’s a Honda who’ve gone, and for every Microsoft putting £2.5bn into UK PLC, there’s an Intel putting €30bn into Germany. When talking about the next big thing beyond IT, not enough commentators point to the offshoring of renewable energy infrastructure manufacturers and the failure of the UK giga-factories; our domestic demand is not enough to build these companies and for small businesses dealing with the burden of Brexit, there are two answers, failure or emigration.

Elliot says,

The one-size-fits-all nature of the single currency is one; the lack of a federal budget to match in size that of the US is another; the adherence to neoliberal economic ideas– such as tough controls on the size of budget deficits – a third.

I agree, but the EU is more likely to drop monetarist neo-liberalism and return to an expansionary demand management regime as proposed by the European Parliament, than an incoming Labour government.

Eliott finishes by writing of the growth of ethno-nationalism in Europe and its impact on the Union’s immigration policy.  He seems to claim that somehow the UK is inoculated from the racism inherent in this politics. I have to ask if Larry is living in the same country as me when we review the legislative record of this Tory government. From the hostile environment requiring two acts of parliament, via the nationalities and borders act and the illegal migration act, our country’s record is shameful. While a Labour government may abandon the Rwanda scheme, I have little confidence but there will be a significant reversal of the Tories disgraceful racist policies on immigration, reinforced only this week by the adjustment to the visa schemes.

Elliot may wish to argue that the UK is immune, however the Brexit vote to leave would seem to be the apogee of populist/nationalist power in this country. We are fortunate that neither the Tories nor UKIP were led by someone capable of emulating Orban or Erdogan, although the Tory Government are trying their hardest with the strongman tactic of attacking and ignoring judges and the law.

Letting racism/nationalism lie is not and has never been an effective progressive strategy.

On economics, and immigration there is hope that the EU can reform itself, frankly, at least, more hope than will be given by a Starmer government.

Further I note that Elliot’s colleague, William Keegan replied later in the Guardian, confirming what I say on the impact of Brexit,

The damage wreaked by our departure from the EU in general and the single market in particular is manifest: investment, productivity and trade have all been badly restricted as about 4% (according to the Office for Budget Responsibility estimate), or up to 6% (according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research), has been knocked off our potential output, or GDP.

Keegan quotes Hunt on the negative impact of Brexit on inward investment and accuses Elliot of setting up a straw man. He argues while not “a basket case the [UK economy] has been badly damaged by Brexit”.


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Gini Index for United Kingdom

2008 – Ten Years On (ONS)

Brexit – GDP

11th December 2023