BY EFFIE DEANS
I was sleeping when we left the EU. It is a matter of complete indifference to me if a fifty pence coin turns up in my change marking the event. If something about being European trends on Twitter I feel slightly amused that some people might think that such things matter. Symbolism doesn’t matter. Reality matters.
It’s already clear that nothing bad will happen because we left the EU. The lurid claims of the Remain campaign and the Remain rearguard have been proved false. Of course, some people still like to claim that we haven’t left the EU yet. We are still in the transition period and that disaster awaits next December. But these people are more and more resembling those preachers who claim that the world will end next April 17th but who keep revising the date of Armageddon forwards each time it doesn’t arrive.
There was one brief blip in the markets in the summer of 2016. The pound fell for a while, which had an entirely beneficial effect on our trade. The British economy today looks stronger than it did in 2016. The threat of far-left socialism now looks remote. The most serious risks that await us in the years ahead involve China, Iran and just possibly a new variant of Spanish Influenza. Trade with the EU will become as arcane a subject as trade with Japan, India and Indonesia. An important subject for those involved, but for the rest of us something that can safely be ignored.
There will be no more cliff edges, no more being dictated to. We can without danger walk away. There is no Remainer majority to stop us. The threats are all hollow. The EU fifth column has been decisively defeated. The EU knows this. We know it. Mutual self-interest will get a minimal trade deal, which will allow us to make deals with who we please without having to follow EU rules about anything much at all. I will sleep through the end of the transition period too.
Has anything changed? Yes. But the important thing is not the fact that we have left what we thought was a trading group which gradually morphed itself into a proto United States of Europe. Leaving the EU was never really about trade.
The issue that matters was always British sovereignty. Trade is a matter of complete indifference compared to that. This is what ordinary people understood, while the liberal establishment sneered. It’s also why the main significance of legally leaving the EU is that we will never go back.
From June 2016 to December 2019 the Remainers fought to stop Brexit. The reason they fought so hard is because they knew that while they might be able to win a second referendum on EU membership, they could never win a referendum on rejoining. Knowing what we do now about the EU it would simply be impossible to find 50% of the electorate willing to give up our sovereignty and have our laws once more subordinate to those created in Brussels. Once we gain control of our fishing waters, once we cease being a part of the Common Agricultural Policy and once we find that we can trade with European countries quite happily without being in the EU, who will want to rejoin?
The EU was something some of us dared not leave for fear that something dreadful would happen, but which few of us would really want to be a part of in its present form. How many Brits are really enthused by “ever closer union”? How many Europeans for that matter?
No party at the next General Election will campaign to rejoin the EU. Even the SNP. Brexit will make Britain much more prosperous, because the EU model is bringing poverty to Europe. The Euro is a recession machine that traps its southern members into low growth in perpetuity, while chaining Germany to a French corpse. Those Germans who initially depicted Brexit as the British putting a gun in our mouth are now looking back wistfully on when they had the Deutsche Mark and didn’t face the prospect of bailing out their neighbours forever. But the EU is the price the Germans have to pay not so much for 1945 as for 1870. German unity requires that its pumps money into the French Lazarus that always dreams of being reborn as Napoleon the first, but always ends up with Napoleon the third.
Some Scottish nationalists celebrated a one-point independence opinion poll lead on Brexit day. But its already over. There isn’t going to be an independence referendum this year. It doesn’t matter what happens in the Scottish Parliament election next year. You see the whole Scottish “intelligentsia” not only thought that Brexit would be a disaster, they also thought that if anyone dared say “No” to Nicola Sturgeon then the clans would rise, and all sorts of horrible things would happen in Scotland. But they didn’t.
Now two Prime Ministers have said “No” and its liable to become a habit. We are going to have to have a few years at least to see how Brexit turns out before even thinking about other matters. Meanwhile the SNP’s independence in Europe strategy has just suffered a decisive defeat. Scotland is no longer part of an EU member state and would have to join from scratch if it were ever to become independent. But just as the British electorate would never vote to rejoin, so too the Scottish electorate wouldn’t do so either. It would mean giving up the sovereignty it had just won in becoming independent and would mean giving up its territorial waters and it would mean making the Scottish Parliament and its laws subordinate to those made by the EU. But independence outside both the EU and the UK looks like a cold and lonely place that Scots will never vote for which leaves just one alternative.
This is why I slept soundly while we left the EU. Brexit has united Britain like nothing else could. It has changed the rules of British politics. There will be no more referendums any time soon. The SNP failed to stop Brexit. The defeat was decisive. It has left the SNP without a strategy and with nothing left to fight for.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.