UPFront 08/18

At a small gathering of what one person described as ‘concerned citizens’, West Dorset MP, The Rt Hon Sir Oliver Letwin, suggested that the result of Brexit may well be that everyone will be very disappointed—but that no one will be able to spot much difference. He said that Remainers will be disappointed because the sky hasn’t fallen in and that Brexiteers will be disappointed because we haven’t entered Heaven. In fact, he believed it likely that nothing much will be terribly different from what it was originally—at least in the short term. This is a summary that many people will disagree with, but it highlights, yet again, the waste of time, money and energy spent on something that many suggest was a gamble initiated to try to keep the Conservative party together. It’s increasingly clear that it hasn’t succeeded in that, and many would say that taking a punt on winning a referendum was at the long-term expense of the country, and certainly endangered the Union of Great Britain. Clear-headed thinking might conclude that it’s unlikely that the City of London will become a ghost town after we leave the European Union and it’s also unlikely that hundreds of huge companies will completely relocate leaving an employment and economic wasteland—and it’s true that the sky probably won’t fall in. We are a sophisticated, intelligent race and should find a way to overcome whatever problems come our way. However, clear-headed, results-focused thinking is not what is going on in government—quite the opposite, it seems to be entirely self-focused individuals vying for the power to implement their own agenda. Whilst in the meantime, the real issues that drove so many people to vote for change remain with us. We have done nothing about the housing crisis; nothing to alleviate the problems with the NHS and little to help those who felt they were voting to show their discontent with austerity and the government of the day. It would be understandable to hear people describe current government manoeuvring as a circus but that might be seen as a gross insult to circus performers. Whilst I understand that, for some people, things may not change dramatically whether we leave the European Union with a deal or with no deal, what is worrying  is knowing that, in the context of dealing with the problems that this country faces, Oliver Letwin’s comment is spot on—we will not spot much difference.