Three years of Brexit: Nothing to celebrate


Status: 01/31/2023 2:15 p.m

Three years after the UK left the EU, Brexit has proven to be a historic mistake. He has caused massive problems for the country and Boris Johnson’s legacy is compounding them.

A comment by Annette Dittert, ARD Studio London

I can still remember that cold, strange night three years ago, when Brexit actually came into force irrevocably. I stood with a few other reporters in front of Downing Street, which had a large clock projected over it.

Boris Johnson was inside, it was said he might come later. Instead, Nigel Farage, who became known for his xenophobic slogans, celebrated his “Independence Day” with maybe a thousand supporters a few meters away in front of Big Ben. It was cold and uncomfortable.

And then suddenly it was midnight. Nothing happened, there were no fireworks and Boris Johnson still didn’t show up and was nowhere to be found. As if he had known even then that there was nothing to celebrate. Then, just after midnight, the reporters quickly dispersed, an ugly drizzle had set in, and we too exited the narrow alley in front of the world’s most famous black door, disoriented, frozen and oddly at a loss as to what was really going to follow this historic moment.

The fears have been confirmed

Three years later we know that there was indeed nothing to celebrate. The fears of EU supporters that the exit would cause massive economic damage to the country have been confirmed. The independent tax assessment institute OBR forecasts the damage already caused by Brexit to be four percent of the British gross national product, and the trend is rising.

And otherwise not a single promise made by the Brexiteers was kept. The healthcare system is more ailing than ever. The famous slogan “Take back control”, which was supposed to evoke the protection of the island from immigrants, is an empty phrase. More refugees than ever have come across the Channel in small boats since Brexit.

The wantonly severing of diplomatic relations with Paris has exacerbated the problem. Instead of agreeing with French President Emmanuel Macron on a humane asylum procedure on French territory, the current British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is demonizing the refugees as “invaders”.

She consciously stages pictures of herself in action at the “front”, for which she climbs out of a military helicopter in Dover. In doing so, she remains true to the actual pattern of the Brexiteer: You create problems for which you then have no solutions.

The legacy of Boris Johnson

And above it all hovers a government suffering from a severe form of “Long Johnson,” the aftermath of the corrupt and chaotic reign of a prime minister who, in the process, destroyed not only his own party at home, but Britain’s political culture with it .

When the current Finance Minister spoke in a recent speech that Brexit would now unfold its full potential and create new growth with him, without even mentioning the problems in the economy caused by the EU exit, then that is different little of the chronic lies of the last administration.

Sunak’s considerations

Johnson’s incessant attacks on the press and the judiciary have also left deep scars and are still effective. A whole package of laws is currently on its way through the courts, which, in addition to freedom of the press, is also intended to alarmingly restrict the right to strike and demonstrate.

It is a package that even the more pragmatic Prime Minister Rishi Sunak does not dare to oppose, for fear of an uprising from his divided and right-wing populist party. Because once taboos, rules and moral barriers have been torn down, political regression to the status quo ante is very seldom successful.

This also applies to the ubiquitous and ever-increasing corruption within the Tory party since the beginning of the Johnson era, the inevitable side effect of populist governments. It was only on Sunday that Sunak had to sack Nadhim Zahawi, the Tory party leader, on the basis of overwhelming evidence after he not only tried to evade millions in taxpayers’ money, but also openly threatened journalists who sent him questions about it with extremely expensive lawsuits.

New elections – that may take a while

The vast majority of Britons are now largely resigned to this decline in their political culture and are waiting for new elections. They could actually be a turning point: according to the latest polls, the Tories are likely to be all but wiped out in the next election.

But until then there are still at least 18 months. And in a country that afforded three prime ministers in four months last year, that’s a long time.

Starmer’s ambiguities

In addition, the leader of the Labor opposition, Keir Starmer, is just as unable to bring himself to speak clearly on Brexit, nor are the Tories. On the other hand, he promises “to make Brexit work”, to make Brexit better, i.e. a rapprochement with the EU, but with no prospect of renewed membership in the internal market.

He fails to mention that a real recovery of the British economy is hardly possible in the short and medium term without the internal market. The tactic is clear: he wants to bring the left-wing Brexiteers, who defected to Johnson in droves in 2019, back into the Labor boat.

A strategy for which the country will pay a high price. Because as long as the opposition does not want to clearly name the disadvantages of leaving the EU, there will be no real solutions to the problems it has caused.

A difficult error to correct

And so the island continues to stagger from crisis to crisis three years after Brexit. According to the latest surveys, almost 60 percent of Britons see leaving the EU as the wrong decision. But a historical error of this magnitude is not as easy to correct as any election result.

Instead of the promised golden age, the glorious national solo effort, the British now have to face a costly rapprochement with Europe that may take generations. Boris Johnson already knew why he was on the night of January 31st. 2020 didn’t even want to show the press for a brief moment.

Editorial note

Comments always reflect the opinion of the respective author and not that of the editors.

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