Two and a Half Years of Stagnation
The story of how a country voted itself into a standstill
Brexit still hasn’t happened yet, in case you were wondering.
And Britain hasn’t yet agreed on a deal with the European Union for how any post-Brexit relationship would look.
Theresa May, the Prime-Minister-in-Name-Only (as savvily termed by our esteemed press) suggests that a deal is “95% done” — though considering what the remaining 5% includes (mainly the difficult/impossible, Irish Border-y stuff) there’s every chance she could chalk this statement up as fake news by the end of the week.
The reality is whether a deal is done or not, we’re now over two years into the process of Brexit, having achieved as a country, well, very little.
Brexit has become the cause of and solution to all of Britain’s problems since the 2016 vote, and this means that politics, of the non-Brexit sort, has basically just stopped.
A (currently anonymous) Tory MP who recently submitted a vote of no-confidence in the PM said as much:
“Where are our domestic policies? What happened to compassionate conservatism? Since Theresa came to power what can we say she’s done that would encourage people to vote Tory? I can’t think of anything. She has no ideas. If it wasn’t for Corbyn she’d be out by now. It’s not good enough. She’s destroying the party I love.”
And of course, it’s not just politics itself, but that upon which it has a direct impact — business, technology, housing, the economy generally.
A look at the stats for the last two years across these areas makes for grim reading.
In business, companies have been understandably quite hesitant to invest, until they can know at least something for sure about how Brexit will impact them:
The housing market saw a drop in the immediate wake of the Brexit vote, followed by a reasonable uptick in the months since.
But according to the Financial Times house prices in London fell 0.7 per cent in the year to June and transaction levels in the capital are down 20 per cent year on year — which almost entirely wipes out any of the surprising buoyancy in the market in the post-Brexit-vote period up to now.
The picture in the tech sector is no brighter. A recent report shows that London’s position as a booming tech startup hub has begun to wane.
The survey of 540 tech founders showed that London’s popularity dropped to 41 percent in 2018 in a weighted vote, down from 55 percent in 2017. Berlin followed with 40 percent, according to the survey by the European Startup Initiative, a nonprofit organization.
As for the economy overall, the UK went from the fastest to the slowest growth of any G7 country in the immediate wake of the Brexit vote.
Conservative estimates put the UK economy at 1–1.5% worse off than it would have been had there been no Brexit vote.
All of this goes to show what many of us perhaps intuitively know and feel: the last two years have basically been a write off for this country.
And here’s the thing — this isn’t Project Fear, this isn’t scaremongering. In fact, this isn’t even casting any aspersions on what will happen once we leave. This is simply outlining what has already happened.
We are two years into this bizarre self-immolating political project, and everything has just ground to a halt because of the sheer mental vastness with which such a pie-in-the-sky project has us encumbered.
There isn’t room for anything else. We don’t have time to fix the housing crisis or fund the NHS. Brexit.
What about the apparent destructive climaxing of climate change? Should we do something about that? No. Brexit.
How about constitutional reform to bring us into the political 21st century or drug law reform to likewise arrive in the social new millennium that our peers now inhabit?
Brexit. Brexit. Brexit.
Well, thanks, Brexit.
Perhaps everyone against this spasmodic and nationalistic act of solipsism is wrong. Perhaps post-Brexit Britain will truly be the sunlit upland of unicorns promised in the campaign by Johnson and Farage and Davis and Rees-Mogg.
Let’s imagine that is the case (hint: it obviously won’t be, even that rag-tag bunch of shysters are admitting it now), it would, on top of just being better than the alternative — the equivalent non-Brexit timeline — also have to make up for the complete waste of the last two and a bit revolutions around the sun we’ve just suffered through.
It can’t do that. And so instead, we’re now into the part of the story whereby those in support of the madness must rely on gaseous expulsions of “will of people” nonsense here, “take back control” there.
Because there really is nothing else for them to say any more. There is nothing to justify the stasis, the paralysis they’ve forced upon the country, before even achieving their full collective batshit goal of an exit and all the masochistic fallout that will result.
All they have to say is Brexit. Brexit means Brexit.
Brexit. Brexit. Brexit.
Jackson Rawlings is a political philosopher, writer and thinker with some big ideas about how we can change the world for the better.