Brexit has consequences that people should have known

In some ways, Brexiters, who despise EU bureaucrats and rail against extra-national decision making, seem to treat it as an act of nature that there are Europe-wide regulatory systems whereas, when transition ends, British citizens will be excluded from their provisions. The related underlying issue is that for many Brexiters the vote to ‘take back control’, with all its emotional resonance, was not thought about in concrete legal or institutional terms but as a kind of symbolic, feel-good act.

That’s partly to do with the taking for granted of the familiar accoutrements of modern life without realising that they are the product of extensive, albeit largely invisible, institutional arrangements. So ‘of course’ nowadays planes fly us to wherever we want without restrictions, as if this were not the outcome of complex agreements such as the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA), and ‘of course’ we can travel, work and live freely within Europe, as if that were not the outcome of freedom of movement rights.

It’s this – along with its counterpart in rejecting all warnings of the practical consequences as being ‘Project Fear’ – which I think partly explains why business and governmental preparedness for the end of the transition period has been so limited. Many people simply don’t understand or believe how radically things are about to change, even if a trade deal of some sort is done. Only as they belatedly come to do so do they realise what they have let themselves in for, as with MP Bob Stewart’s recent bathetic plea for the continuation of pet passports so that he can still take his dogs to France.

This week, an example was Brexiter MP Peter Bone’s bemusement (during a Select Committee meeting) that mutual recognition of standards between the UK and EU will not be possible when we have left the single market. Bone has been campaigning to leave for his entire political life, has all the resources of the House of Commons Library at his disposal and yet still hasn’t acquainted himself with relatively basic facts.

Extracts from ‘The Brexit Blog’ July 2020 by Chris Grey