After two years of omerta, Brexit is once again at the heart of the British debate. Experts and the media openly criticize its negative effects on the UK economy. Public opinion is also shifting: on the set of “Question Time”, the BBC’s flagship program or at the microphone of the very popular LBC radio, listeners are increasing their criticism of the divorce from the European Union (EU). According to a survey by the YouGov institute published on November 17, 56% of respondents believe that the country “was wrong to leave the EU” on December 31, 2020.
However, pronouncing the “B-word” (word Brexit) remains taboo among conservatives, even moderate ones. The leadership of the Labor Party also remains in denial, while, a priori, criticizing the Tories promoters of a “hard” Brexit that looks like a historic error could earn it points. Keir Starmer, its leader, is content to advocate a vague improvement in the terms of the post-Brexit trade agreement concluded in 2020 between former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU.
The presentation on 17 November by the government of Rishi Sunak of an austerity budget in an attempt to restore the country’s financial credibility (after the catastrophic episode of the “mini-budget” by Liz Truss) loosened the tongues. On this occasion, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility estimated that the standard of living of the British would collapse by 7% in the next two years. This independent government body clarified that Brexit “had a significant negative impact” on British foreign trade, with the drop in trade standing at 15% over the long term.
This observation had been masked by the sudden slowdown in trade due to the pandemic. The “hard” Brexit chosen by the Conservatives in 2019, accompanied by an exit from the European internal market, involves the appearance of customs barriers with the EU, the country’s main trading partner. Forecasts from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have also accelerated awareness: in 2023, the British economy will be the most struggling of all those in the G20 (with the exception of Russia). .
Faced with this avalanche of bad news, the management of the CBI, the British employers’ union, through the voice of its boss, Tony Banker, called on the political leaders “to put their divisions aside” and to ” to improve ” the Brexit deal. Mr. Banker demanded that the government facilitate controlled immigration, contrary to what Brexiters advocate, and that he renounce the “Retained EU Law Bill”, a bill aimed at removing from national law thousands of texts inherited from European law.
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