There has been a running theme from commenters and Brexit supporting members of the electorate since the referendum:
“Don’t mess about with Brexit! We want out the EU and we know what we voted for!”
Thank God! I’m ever so reassured that someone in this country seems to know what Brexit means and how the UK should go about achieving it’s aims in life outside the EU, because it is becoming increasingly clear that our Prime Minister doesn't.
Since taking office on the 13th of July this year, Prime Minister May and her administration has lurched from one omnishambles to another over the biggest constitutional crisis that the UK has ever faced.
The embarrassing moments have come thick and fast for the PM, with possibly her biggest humiliation coming when Julia Dockerill, an aide to Conservative party vice-chairman Mark Field, got ‘The Thick of It’ fans reminiscing by inadvertently showing a memo to the press which revealed, among other embarrassing contents, that the UK government still has no plan for Brexit.
However the memo also revealed that Theresa May’s government will not look to remain within the European Economic Area (EEA), also known as the European single market. This is bad news for Scotland, the UK and Europe, and is also an indicator of just how much the right of the Conservative party is driving the negotiating position of the UK Government.
For Scotland, it is estimated that if access to the single market is not retained after Brexit then 80,000 jobs could be lost, and by 2030 £11bn could be wiped from Scotland’s economy. For the UK, Europe makes up 40% of it’s service exports, whereas Brazil, Russia, India and China combined make up for less than 5%. For Europe, a rejection of the single market from the UK would be a body blow to a system that has benefited so much to 500m Europeans. It has brought lower prices with higher quality products, businesses have been able to expand across Europe without barriers and restrictions, students and tourists have been able to study and travel freely. It has brought growth, jobs, Investment and a connected continent.
Some brexiteers calling for a ‘hard Brexit’ may find these facts tough to swallow, with many citing that ‘the British people knew what they voted for, and they voted to come out of the single market’.
Oh but did they now? I would argue the contrary. Those who voted Leave voted to leave the EU, they did not vote to leave the single market. In fact, many leave voters will have voted for Brexit under the pretences that there would still be access to the single market after Britain left the EU, because that was the official line from Vote Leave. However, this is ‘not a realistic option’ according to the German foreign policy spokesman Jurgen Hardt.
The reason this proposal flies in the face of reality? Because to retain access to the single market the UK would need to accept the four principles of the single market — Including free movement of people.
Nobody disagrees with the fact that Immigration was the issue of the referendum for voters, despite the massive amounts of benefits that EU migrants bring to the UK. Benefits such as making a net fiscal contribution of £20bn between 2001–2011, comparing to a net negative contribution from UK natives amounting to £617bn over the same period. The notion that Immigrants lower wages and take jobs was allowed to flourish, despite being utterly discredited as a theory. According to Jonathan Wadsworth, who is a member of the government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee:
“It is hard to find evidence of much displacement of UK workers or lower wages, on average.”
So on this substantial evidence, you would assume that Theresa May would happily accept access to the single market under these conditions in order to avoid the economic calamity that would come from rejecting access to it. However, it is not quite as easy for her as that, and this is an indicator of just how far the right of the Tory party succeeded in regaining control back from the Notting Hill set of the David Cameron era.
No matter how many facts or statistics you put in front of the Tory right, they are ideologically ingrained into believing that reducing net migration can only be a good thing, and the worst part is now they have an electorate to back them up. In the Brexit negotiations, anything that even remotely means that the UK will need to accept free movement will be seen as a betrayal of the referendum result, and with Theresa May being a remainer (albeit a very silent one) that adds the pressure on to her to be seen to respect the result in every way possible.
It is clear that the terms of the Brexit process are now being dictated by the right-wing of the Tory party, and control over proceedings is rapidly spiralling out of the Prime Ministers hands.
It is now looking increasingly likely that the Prime Minister who was meant to be a ‘safe pair of hands’ is now going to preside over the biggest act of economic self destruction the UK has experienced, by withdrawing from the single market and making the economy pay the price for reduced immigration.
The economy is going down, and this is Theresa’s Mayday call