Imagine you’re going to buy a new TV. You want it to be able to record programmes, connect to the internet, have Netflix and surround sound. The salesman confidently tells you that your new purchase has all of this and more. But once you get your new TV home, you discover that not only does it have none of these features, it’s not even colour. Your promised world-leading, unbeatable, top-of-the-range television is a black and white set. Put simply, you’ve been sold a dud.
It is now widely accepted that people voted to leave the EU for a plethora of reasons. But one thing that is clear is that people voted Leave as a means to an end - the means being the UK exiting the European Union, the ends being the wish to make our country a better place to live, giving people a fairer chance in our society and open to the world. David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, on the other hand, want power for themselves - Keir Starmer was absolutely right to say the Bill formerly known as Great Repeal should be renamed the Great Power Grab. ‘Take back control’ was never sold as giving a dangerous level of control to a minority government.
As every day passes, it becomes clearer and clearer that leaving the European Union will not make our country fairer, a better place to live or open to the world. What is becoming even more clear is that the Government has neither the capacity or competence to deliver Brexit, with Cabinet ministers fighting one another and an interim Prime Minister without a mandate. They want to limit debate on the Withdrawal Bill to just eight days and are grubbily attempting to take an unearned majority on the committees deciding legislation despite the British public denying them a majority just three months ago.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State confidently claimed that no one had ever said Brexit would be “simply or easy”.
Nobody, of course, except for Boris Johnson:
"There are plenty of people who now think the cost of getting out would be virtually nil and the cost of staying in would be very high"
"Getting out of the EU can be quick and easy"
"The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history."
And the illustrious Secretary of State for Exiting the EU himself, David Davis:
"So within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU."
So now, when you hear David Davis assuring the country that we will be exponentially better off after we leave the EU you can judge him against the worrying reality that is unfolding.
By raising questions I am not denying the will of the people. The will of the people was not to have 30 mile long queues at borders. It wasn’t to see our farmers lose their subsidies or the vital research and innovation done in our world-class universities grind to a halt. It certainly wasn’t to have every problem in our country that needs dealing with - housing, the NHS, skills, productivity - put on hold so that we can put ourselves through this damaging exercise. I can’t see anybody, apart from lobbyists or lawyers, who will benefit from the Brexit being set by the Prime Minister and David Davis; especially one that sees us crash out of the Customs Union and the Single Market.
Now is the time to have an honest conversation about what was promised, by whom and what they are actually going to deliver. The ‘all things to all men’ promises that current ministers made last year can now be measured against what they are actually failing to achieve. The election result and the track record of current ministers mean this government should be given less, not more, power in this process.
This article first appeared on LabourList on 12th September 2017.