Dear Commons Community,
Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times columnist, had a piece yesterday entitled. “In the U.K., a Disaster No One Wants to Talk About”. She reviews the disastrous consequences leaving the European Union has meant for the British. Here is an excerpt.
“There’s a growing understanding in Britain that the country’s vote to quit the European Union, a decisive moment in the international rise of reactionary populism, was a grave error.
Just as critics predicted, Brexit has led to inflation, labor shortages, business closures and travel snafus. It has created supply chain problems that put the future of British car manufacturing in danger. Brexit has, in many cases, turned travel between Europe and the U.K. into a punishing ordeal, as I learned recently, spending hours in a chaotic passport control line when taking the train from Paris to London. British musicians are finding it hard to tour in Europe because of the costs and red tape associated with moving both people and equipment across borders, which Elton John called “crucifying.”
According to the U.K.’s Office for Budget and Responsibility, leaving the E.U. has shaved 4 percent off Britain’s gross domestic product. The damage to Britain’s economy, the O.B.R.’s chairman has said, is of the same “magnitude” as that from the Covid pandemic.
All this pain and hassle has created an anti-Brexit majority in Britain. According to a YouGov poll released this week, 57 percent of Britons say the country was wrong to vote to leave the E.U., and a slight majority wants to rejoin it. Even Nigel Farage, the former leader of the far-right U.K. Independence Party sometimes known as “Mr. Brexit,” told the BBC in May, “Brexit has failed.”
This mess was, of course, both predictable and predicted. That’s why I’ve been struck, visiting the U.K. this summer, by the curious political taboo against discussing how badly Brexit has gone, even among many who voted against it. Seven years ago, Brexit was an early augur of the revolt against cosmopolitanism that swept Donald Trump into power. (Trump even borrowed the “Mr. Brexit” moniker for himself.) Both enterprises — Britain’s divorce from the E.U. and Trump’s reign in the U.S. — turned out catastrophically. Both left their countries fatigued and depleted. But while America can’t stop talking about Trump, many in the U.K. can scarcely stand to think about Brexit.
“It’s so toxic,” Tobias Ellwood, a Tory lawmaker who has called on his colleagues to admit that Brexit was a mistake, told me. “People have invested so much time and pain and agony on this.” It’s like a “wound,” he said, that people want to avoid picking at. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, one of the few Labour Party leaders eager to discuss the consequences of leaving the E.U., described an “omertà,” or vow of silence, around it. “It’s the elephant in the room,” he told me. “I’m frustrated that no one’s talking about it.
What a shame. This could have been avoided!