One year on, is Brexit really as bad as we feared?

Spoiler Alert: Yes

A year ago today, Britons went to the polls to vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU with two very different sets of campaign promises ringing in their ears.

The Remain campaign had taken a supposedly safe approach, focusing on the economic disaster that would be unleashed by leaving the EU, promising voters that they would be personally worse off after Brexit and trusting that would overwhelm most people’s concerns about the EU and the direction in which Britain was headed.

The Leave campaign offered an altogether more optimistic vision of the future, promising Britain would ‘take back control’ of its laws and borders, would rapidly sign trade deals with major non-European economies and, of course, would have an extra £350m to invest in the NHS.

The problem with these promises is that they were false. While some Remain campaigners (looking at you, George Osborne) may have gone overboard with their portents of doom, that pales in comparison with the overarching dishonesty of the Leave campaign, which won on the back of lies sold to voters.

The year since the referendum has shown that, while Project Fear may not have resonated with the public, there was good reason to be afraid.


Shortly after midnight, results from Sunderland and Newcastle were reported and the pound began to plunge. It has never recovered, nor anywhere near. Sterling has depreciated by 15 per cent in the year since Britain went to the polls.

Graph via The Conversation 

This has impacted the economy in a number of ways, with serious impacts for ordinary people. While wages continue to stagnate, inflation is rising more quickly than expected creating a pay squeeze that is depressing consumption and reducing quality of life.

This will reverberate around the whole economy. In the months after the vote, Brexiteers made much of the fact that the economy hadn’t declined as sharply as expected. That was because consumer spending remained unexpectedly high. Ordinary people are now tightening their belts, and growth has slumped.

Theresa May’s decision to plough ahead with a hard Brexit — for which she has no mandate following the general election — will only drag the economy down further.


In the days of the referendum, Britain watched in horror as hate crimes spiked. European citizens in Britain, and immigrants from the rest of the world, were faced with a new reality in which the worst elements of British society were emboldened by the referendum result.

Nor did immigrants get much comfort from the Tory government which, in the months after the referendum, embraced new levels of anti-immigrant vitriol.

At Tory conference in October, Amber Rudd proposed that companies be forced to keep a register of foreign workers to ‘name and shame’ those who weren’t hiring enough Brits. Jeremy Hunt announced a plan to drive hardworking foreign doctors out of the NHS. And Theresa May famously announced that ‘if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’.

Although the Leave campaign insisted that EU citizens already resident in Britain had no reason for concern, they have waited an entire year for any guarantee of their right to remain in the country. Last night, at long last, May made an offer that guarantees them the same rights and benefits as UK citizens.

But as it turns out, immigration is falling without help from the government as the UK becomes a less appealing place to work, both because of its weakened economy and its exclusionary attitude to foreign workers. In key sectors, arrivals from the EU have already declined.

For example, there has been a 96 per cent decline in the number of nurses arriving to work in the UK and, it has been reported today, the drop-off in seasonal workers has been so pronounced that British strawberries may see a 50 per cent price bump in the weeks ahead.


It’s difficult to recall the frenzied atmosphere that grasped the country in the days after the referendum. David Cameron resigned, most of the Labour shadow cabinet resigned, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson dive-bombed out of the Conservative leadership contest, soon followed by Andrea Leadsom.

We ended up with May, a supposedly safe pair of hands who has instead shown herself to be breathtakingly incompetent. Between them, May and her three Brexiteers (Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox) have drastically reduced Britain’s standing in Europe and the world, taking a hostile, arrogant approach to the early stages of the Brexit talks, just when they should have been most tactful and diplomatic.

Furthermore, while we might welcome the gains made by Labour and other progressive parties in the snap general election, the continuing chaos in the government is leaves Britain severely weakened in the eyes of its European neighbours, and leaves British people facing continued uncertainty about their livelihoods and their future.

No deal?

Most worryingly of all is the government’s continued belief that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. This is blatantly untrue, and if Britain crashes over the cliff edge in 2019, the consequences will make the problems we’ve seen so far look life piffling inconveniences.

The last year may not have unfolded the way any of us expected, but any Brexiteers who say that it hasn’t been as bad as was predicted are lying (as is their wont). The crisis that emerged in the early hours of 24 June last year is still unfolding, and will continue to for many more years.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

11 Responses to “One year on, is Brexit really as bad as we feared?”

  1. Boffy

    “Where is the party of the UK working class that used to stand up against the bankers, lawyers and corporatists that now dominate the democracy and institutions of the European Union, and now make a mockery of any shred of democracy in the UK?”

    It grew up, looked around and saw that a lot of those most important bankers were actually British bankers, lawyers and corporatists and that it had more in common with European workers than British bankers, and corporatists. It recognised that Europe has a Parliament elected on a more democratic basis of proportional representation than the British undemocratic First Past the Post System. It recognised that it is Britain that has an unelected House of Lords, currently made up of over 1,000 lawmakers elected by no one. It recognised that even the EU Head of State, the President is elected, whereas the British Head of State is an unelected feudal Monarch whose very existence should be anathema to any decent democrat let alone socialist.

    National Socialism is not real socialism, and workers should not be misled by those who sell such a reactionary prospectus to them.

  2. Dave J.

    “It recognised that Europe has a Parliament elected on a more democratic basis of proportional representation than the British undemocratic First Past the Post System”
    Yup, the PR system is much more democratic. Now all the European parliament needs is the ability to pass (or at least discuss!) laws that haven’t been pre-written by the UN-ELECTED European Commission. Yes, Euro Parliament members are chosen quite democratically, but they can’t actually do anything they’re not TOLD TO DO by the European Commission that wouldn’t know a voter if it are one!

  3. Mike Stallard

    The elected Prime Ministers – Blair, Brown, Cameron filled the House of Lords with their cronies and now it is ridiculous. Cronies in fancy dress.
    People who want to be the King themselves (or Queen themselves) and there are lots of them, want to get rid of the real Queen who embodies the history of our noble country right back to 1066. She is very good at being Queen. I am not sure that the people who want to have an elected Queen (like on the X factor?) are quite up to the challenge.
    First past the post is simple, it works, it reveals the feelings of the people even with the postal vote scandal and the unfair boundaries.
    Let us think about what we are saying and not just trot stuff out.

  4. Richard Stevens

    This article is absolutely right! The problem is Labour is not coming up with a solution. There is no such thing as a soft brexit (at least one which the EU will accept). There is only either brexit (the hard variety!) or staying in the EU. And unless we want to lose a caring, welfare society the latter is the only option. So please, please Labour – wake up and be clear that we need to stay in Europe. Let’s stop these crazy, time-consuming and expensive antics negotiating a deal which cannot happen. Once we are firmly again in the EU , then we can start to negotiate with open-minded politicians like Macron and Merkel about necessary adjustments to the way the EU operates.

  5. patrick newman

    Both sides lied, distorted and exaggerated their case and that is almost ancient history of a decision supported by just 37.5% of the electorate and a smaller percentage of the eligible 18 and over year olds. Life is so far not too awful post Referendum but you get the feeling it’s going to get worse before the negotiations have even completed. For example I will be very surprised if Peugeot do not close the Ellesmere Port Astra factory soon and we get an unwelcome announcement about the future manufacturing structure for the BMW mini. If these events happen they will focus the minds of many involved in the negotiations.

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