Today is a bleak day — and things can only get worse
For those of us who voted to remain a member of the European Community, today is a bleak day.
The Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives the UK two years to negotiate withdrawal and then to face an uncertain future in the wider world.
The consequences of what former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine calls the ‘worst peacetime decision taken by any modern postwar government’ have yet to play out.
While former Chancellor George Osborne’s apocalyptic warnings of the immediate economic effects of a leave decision on 23rd June 2016 were always fanciful, there is plenty to worry about for the economy.
The slide in the value of the pound is now feeding through to higher inflation with the costs of living, especially for people on low incomes, set to bite deep into household budgets.
The Office of Budget Responsibility predicts an uncertain economic outlook post-Brexit while the Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates that the effects will be a four per cent hit on Gross Domestic Product — almost equivalent to one years’ spend on the NHS.
It is also likely that continued pressure will be felt by large companies to relocate to Europe and take advantage of the Single Market, while the UK will have to boost its woeful productivity to compete as trade tariffs increase the price of its exports.
The implications for the UK surviving in its current form are yet to be fully felt. If Scotland breaks away, with the possibility of a new Hadrian’s Wall, the UK’s economy will shrink by at least eight per cent. This will endanger our place in the G7 group of nations — a crucial economic club.
An independent Scotland will also reduce the UK’s land mass by about one third. Arrangements for the many thousands of Scottish people living and working in England and English people working and living in Scotland will be thorny too.
Brexit is equally threatening the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland with the possibility of a hard border between the north and south of Ireland emerging as the peace process is put at risk.
Yet those 48 per cent of us who voted to remain in the EU are expected to stand by while our future is put at risk in a harsher, less welcoming country where the likes of David Davis, Liam Fox, Bill Cash, Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall are seen as leaders of merit by our dreadful right-wing press – and in Farage’s case, by the President of the United States.
Not so the leavers: as Nigel Farage said:
“In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way. If the remain campaign win two-thirds to one-third that ends it.”
The same holds true for a second Scottish independence referendum: the leavers keep coming back but once secession is approved, the remainers will be told to hold their counsel.
It is highly likely that the UK’s position in the world will be diminished economically and politically over the coming years.
As the full implications of Brexit begin to sink in — less prosperity, unity and decency, even as immigration remains high — remainers must continue the fight to take advantage of a possible change in public mood.
We can’t allow a resurgent right-wing cabal of politicians, media barons and xenophobes who will rubbish any facts that contradict their world view to isolate the UK in an increasingly dangerous world.
Kevin Gulliver is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, writing in a personal capacity. Follow him on Twitter @kevingulliver
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