Lhe year 2022 will have marked the political defeat of Brexit in the United Kingdom. Now 60% of Britons say leaving the European Union (EU) was a mistake, compared to 40% who support it. The shift began in the summer of 2021 (the British were then divided, 50% in each camp) and since then the two curves have gradually moved away.
They can now see the negative consequences of their decision. It is difficult to sort out precisely between Brexit, the pandemic, the energy shock and political chaos, but the facts are there: the economy is falling more than elsewhere. Between the second quarter of 2016, the date of the referendum, and that of 2022, the United Kingdom experienced growth that was 5.5% lower than that of a group of around 40 comparable countries which experienced, in previous years, a similar growth, according to calculations by the Center for European Reform, a think tank. UK foreign trade volume also grew 7% less than this group. And investments are 11% lower.
However, there is no going back: Brexit has happened and no one is seriously talking about returning to the EU. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the leader of the Labor opposition, Keir Starmer, both delivered, in this new school year 2023, a speech which illustrates this. The first, who voted for Brexit and whose party is today the embodiment of this policy, cannot be denied. So he chose to barely mention the subject.
The second has a political problem: he must bring back pro-Brexit voters from popular constituencies in the north of England, who deserted in 2019. Mr. Starmer, who is a convinced pro-European, must seduce them. In his speech, he chose to turn the argument around, stressing that he understands the people who voted for Brexit in 2016 because they “wanted reliable public services, streets they could be proud of, opportunities for the next generation”. In short, their anger was legitimate. His answer is to promise an improvement in British public services if he comes to power, not to talk about relations with the European Union.
The economic world is not asking for a step back either, on the side of employers or unions. Two years after the official exit from the single European market, the 1er January 2021, the damage is done. Large companies trading with the EU have become accustomed to filling out the required paperwork, the necessary veterinary certificates are no longer a secret for seafood exporters, and banks have opened offices in Dublin, Paris or Frankfurt. Everyone has now adapted, healing their wounds and absorbing the additional costs.
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