In truth, as the dust settles, it has become clear that the choice for the British people in 2016 was to either remain in the largest and most successful trade bloc in the world, the European Union (EU), or join a small trade bloc in the Pacific called the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (CPTPP).
As we all remember, after years of arguments, Britain chose to unmoor herself from the EU mothership in 2016 and in February 2021 set sail for an unknown destination in the midst of a global pandemic. Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, ensuring the waters became even more dangerously choppy. Now we are lost in the Atlantic Ocean trying to find moorings in the Pacific with CPTPP. There is even a petition to hold a referendum on any new trade deal like CPTPP. UK has signed two new trade deals (with Australia and New Zealand), which everyone agrees sold out our food and farming industry at the expense of services. The hope of a USA free trade deal was scuppered when Trump lost in 2020, but many Brexiteers have floated their aspirations for USA to join CPTPP in the future.
After two years of actual Brexit, Britain still remains unclear and undecided about what Brexit means. Polling shows well over half the population believe Brexit was the wrong decision. However around 36% believe it was right. Overall the majority of the country agree that Brexit has been a failure and has delivered no Brexit benefits. Indeed, Brexit has delivered the opposite of everything it promised to deliver: stopping immigration translated to highest immigration on record, cheaper food hopes dashed by soaring food inflation and the new ‘navy blue’ passports have seen chaos for Brits hoping to get to Europe.
There is still no clarity whatsoever about Britain’s final Brexit destination, apart from a vague mention of the Conservatives making Britain a “Singapore On Thames”, which is ludicrous because we are nothing like Singapore and never can be because as a recent article in The Conversation says:
“… distance really does matter in trade. All the CPTPP members are thousands of miles from the UK, which explains their relatively small shares in UK trade at present”.
Labour has no Brexit vision apart from stating they want to make Brexit work. They’ve ruled out finding hope in the Pacific with CPTPP and declare they believe we need to be closer to our original EU mothership. However they rule out game-changers for growth like joining the Single Market. The LibDems have clear, realistic and hopeful policy passed by membership in 2022 on Europe but the leadership has made it clear they don’t want to sell it to the public, so it remains under lock and key in the archives.
So, who is offering hope of a better future? The next election could easily happen sooner than 2024, maybe June or Autumn 2023, given that next winter is lining up to be even more full of discontent than the last one. What will people choose to do based on the big picture of what comes next? Hoping the Labour poll lead will win the day in a short and aggressive snap election campaign is woefully inadequate. We know that the tricks of the right-wing media to manufacture reasons to not vote Labour will gain traction when Labour are failing to communicate what life under a Labour Government would mean for Britons. If I were advising the Tories, I would tell them to play on the fear around taxing wealth to pay to fix the broken welfare state.
In my view, it’s totally reckless of Labour to just hope that they will sneak over the line to power just because people are fed up with the Conservative government. ‘Better the devil you know’ will resonate. The Reform Party is building behind the scenes to offer boosterism but, as their polling is low, they’re not feared. But that can change overnight as happened in the run up to the European elections in 2019. False hope of a nostalgic trip to greatness is more exquisite when everyone else is offering gruel. People vote for hope of a better future and right now Labour are miles behind the curve but are afraid to do anything for fear of losing their poll lead.
In fact, to use Theresa May’s Brexit claim, “Nothing has changed”, we still face two choices: either Britain decides to free up trade again with the EU or she continues with an experiment to see if a country can live off services alone and imported foods from the other side of the world. We know the Conservatives want to continue with the CPTPP / Singapore on Thames experiment, despite conceding it could take 50 years to see any benefits. But why aren’t Labour pointing out they have a silver bullet which solves many of our problems almost overnight? Joining the Single Market and Customs Union is the answer to all our problems and it’s beyond a mystery as to why Labour and LibDems aren’t singing this from the rooftops.
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