What exactly is the Proper Brexit of which Nigel Farage speaks? Pre-referendum, Nige declared that even the worst case scenario would leave Britain better off economically. He now believes that the Brexit we are heading for will leave us worse off that we currently are within the EU. The truth of the matter is this: Farage’s entire premise was entirely dependent on the EU ‘banging on Britain’s door to do a free trade deal’. And this would happen because ‘the German car industry would force the politicians to do so’. There was no real Plan B (as detailed in one of my most prescient posts of the last decade) should it transpire that the German car industry would not be leading the Brexit negotiations.
Was there ever a way to do a ‘Proper Brexit’? Possibly, but that opportunity was blown in March 2017. Brexiters liked to repeatedly declare that ‘the UK holds all the cards’. But the moment we triggered Article 50, the UK showed its hand – and there was a distinct lack of Queens, Kings or Aces. The clock started, the pressure was on the UK – the EU were, and remain, in control. Things might have worked out better, for the UK at least, had they not invoked Article 50 quite so quickly. Things might have worked out better had the UK dedicated itself – from its place within the EU – to forcing the EU to develop an exit process as a supplement to Article 50, which in itself is simply the mechanism for leaving.
I’m aware that the EU would not negotiate Brexit prior to Article 50 being invoked. For good reason – see above. But within the EU, the UK could have been a stifling presence, blocking progress, cutting budgets and making itself a pain. The sort of pain that the EU would eventually like to see the back of. The sort of pain that would likely lead to a much better deal than we’ll get now. Such a policy would have provided a much more reasonable timeframe to unravel forty years worth of partnership. The trouble, from the Brexiters point of view, is that this would take years, multiple governments and much conversation amongst a population with an increasingly pro-EU demographic. As a result, Brexit done properly would in all likelihood, mean no Brexit at all.
Which is why Nigel and Co urged for Article 50 immediately. Which is why ‘no deal’ is acceptable to them. This is ideology at play, and consequences be damned. The only plausible Brexit is and always has been a Bad Brexit. And I’m sure they know it. Let us cross our fingers that there is another referendum. One hopes that a sufficient proportion of the population now knows it too.