Brexit blasted as boffin says Leavers ‘now admit leaving EU was a mistake’

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Since officially leaving the EU in 2021, Brexiteers have been keen to point to the benefits of Brexit, including slashing the bloc’s red tape legislation and in striking new trade deals. However, an expert has noted top Tories and Brexiteers have changed their tune from backing Brexit fully to admitting issues with leaving the bloc.

Chris Grey, Emeritus Professor of Organisation Studies at Royal Holloway and ex-Professor at Cambridge University, said “Brexiteers are losing the post-Brexit narrative”.

He noted an “‘admission-yet-denial’ phenomenon” in Brexiteers, where ministers acknowledge issues with leaving the EU but also point to other factors such as Covid and the Ukraine war.

Mr Grey cited Jacob Rees Mogg, Lord David Frost and Rishi Sunak’s recent comments, where the Chancellor said damage done by Brexit to trade with the EU was “inevitable” in March.

Mr Mogg also said in May customs and SPS checks scheduled to be phased in from July this year will be delayed for the fourth time, calling it an “act of self harm”.

Lord Frost has repeatedly denounced the Northern Irish Protocol as unworkable, despite he and Boris Johnson agreeing to replace Theresa May’s backstop with it.

Writing for his blog ‘Brexit and Beyond’, Mr Grey noted Brexiteers “implicitly or explicitly admit to the failures of the Brexit they agreed or supported, whilst denying or ignoring that the cause is the Brexit they agreed or supported”.

The expert also noted another argument for backing Brexit, which “takes the form of claiming Brexit to have been a success compared with predictions of the damage it would cause”.

He then added: “What is striking is how convoluted some of these arguments are, and how defensive.

“If Brexit had been even half as successful as it was claimed it was going to be then, by now, you’d expect that to be easily demonstrable and increasingly self-evident even to those who had formerly doubted, or at least to a growing number of them.

“You would also expect a growing self-confidence from Brexiters so that they would feel no need to jibe – as (Tim) Montgomery does – at “remoaners”. The magnanimity of victory, even though it eluded them in 2016, would by now be theirs.

“There would be clear signs of Brexit at least moving towards meeting the test for its success set by Frost himself, namely that by 2031 ‘nobody is questioning Brexit. It was self-evidently the right thing to do.’”

Mr Grey cited YouGov polling since August 2016, which asked “In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?”.

Across 208 polls and since June 23 2021, a majority of those polled have repeatedly said the UK was “wrong to leave”, with the most recent poll on April 27 seeing 49 percent say it was “wrong”, 37 percent say it was “right to leave”, and 14 percent saying “don’t know”.

Polling from Redfield and Wilton Strategies for UK in a Changing Europe on April 20 also saw evidence a clear majority of both Leave and Remain voters think Brexit has made the cost of living higher, at 57 percent and 78 percent respectively.

Mr Great then continued to say the polling happened “during a time when, in England at least, few national politicians have been openly criticising Brexit and when media coverage of it has been quite muted” due to a focus on Partygate, the Ukraine war and local elections.

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Concluding his remarks, Mr Grey said: “At the end of January 2021 I wrote a post on this blog arguing that the months to come would be crucial in shaping the post-Brexit narrative.

“Fifteen months on, I think it is justifiable to say that the outcome has predominantly been to frame Brexit as having been a mistake and a failure.

“The evidence for that is the opinion polls and also the way that, as discussed in other posts, so many Brexiteers themselves now say that it has not delivered its promises.

“The latter, admittedly, is not quite the same as saying it is a failure, but it is a long way from a ringing endorsement. All of this is a long way from what success would look like.”

He noted “the narrative is not fixed and may change”, noting the Ukraine war and a potential row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, but added: “It’s reasonable to think that the narrative that settled first is likely to be hard to dislodge.

“What’s more, I believe that many Brexiteers realise this, and it explains the increasingly convoluted and defensive postures they are adopting.“

It comes as the UK looks to start talks for a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to boost bilateral trade.

The GCC is the UK’s third largest export market globally outside of the EU, behind the US and China.

Trade between the GCC and UK exceeded more than €46 billion (£39.291 billion) before COVID with British exports amounting to €25 billion (£21.354 billion) in 2020.

Simon Penney, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, told Euronews: “We’re currently at the stage now where we’re working with our GCC hosts and looking at what that mandate will look like as we seek to enter negotiations.

“[It] is a very strong foundation on which we are building our trade relationship going forward.”

Mr Penney added it is “across a whole spectrum of sectors and industries that matter both to the UK, but also and arguably, more importantly, to the economic transformation that is happening here in the Gulf”.

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