13 things politicians have said about Brexit which look a little naive now

13 things politicians have said about Brexit which look a little naive now

With the deadline of 31 December growing closer and closer it is starting to become the proverbial squeaky-bum-time (as Alex Ferguson would put it) and the government is now telling the nation to prepare for a no deal Brexit.

Taking a retrospective look at what politicians have said about Brexit, you'd be forgiven for remembering everything that has gone on during this entire period. More than four years on, three prime ministers, two general elections, three Brexit secretaries, Nigel Farage starting a new party and becoming some sort of migrant coastguard, a gigantic lorry car park in Kent and a global pandemic and the UK still hasn't struck a Brexit deal.

While nothing is set in stone, certain sectors are appealing to Boris Johnson to strike a deal with the EU, however, Brexiteers seem set on normalising a no deal exit from the EU. Such a scenario could plunge UK ports into chaos, leave households almost £1,000 worse off a year, laws on travel, trade and shopping will cease to exist and the price of food will only increase.

The British public and Europe is not impressed and to suggest that the UK is in 'crisis' is something of an understatement and when you look at these aging quotes from the last few years, it's hard not to agree.

1. Theresa May: "No deal is better than a bad deal"

May's fateful refrain looked foolish when first spoken at the beginning of 2017, given how entwined our trade is with the EU, accounting for 43 per cent of UK exports in goods and services and more than half (54 per cent) of imports.

Now, after the phrase has been quietly dropped, the words look near-delusional after former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab revealed no-deal precautions that could have been snatched from a student cookbook: stockpiling processed foods.

Raab could only promise to ensure "an adequate food supply" if we still haven't worked out a way to maintain the free flow of goods, a pressing issue given the UK only produces half of what it eats.

Picture:Picture: Leave campaigners Paul Nuttal MEP and Nigel Evans MP celebrating the referendum result and looking forward to an "adequate food supply".

2. Paul Nuttal: "It will be so easy to negotiate a trade deal, and of course, it's in the European Union's interest, just as it is in ours"

Former UKIP leader Paul Nutall told BBC Radio 4 programme in January 2017 that negotiations will be easy. Of course, this was before Article 50 was triggered before we knew negotiations were doomed to a snail-like pace.

3. Gerard Batten "A trade deal with the EU could be sorted out in an afternoon over a cup of coffee"

If anyone out there is on the lookout for the most hyperbolic prediction of all time, there are worse places to start than another former UKIP leader Gerard Batten's, who have the aforementioned comments on trade relations with the EU in February 2017.

Rather than getting sorted during a chit-chat over coffee, negotiations were moving so slowly that EU President Donald Tusk warned that they almost collapsed in 2017.

4. Douglas Carswell: "I think free trade would be relatively straightforward between the UK and America"

Brexiteer and former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, said at the Institute for Government in April 2017 that setting up trade deals with the US would be seamless:

I think free trade would be relatively straightforward between the United Kingdom and America. 

If it’s legal to buy and sell a product in California, it should be legal to buy and sell it in Clacton.

Of course there’ll be some caveats.

Picture:Picture: Boris Johnson and Liam Fox speak at a Vote Leave event in May.

5. David Davis: "You can be sure there will be a deal"

David Davis told the BBC in June 2017 he is "pretty sure", but not "certain", that he would be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU:

You can be sure there will be a deal, whether it's the deal I want which is the free trade agreement, the customs agreement and so on - I'm pretty sure but I'm not certain.

Nearly two years later, he's resigned from his position and there is still no deal or an extension in place. Good omens for everyone.

6. Boris Johnson: "There is no plan for no deal because we are going to get a great deal"

Johnson there, with his characteristic confidence in July 2017.

This is despite Davis telling Andrew Marr that “we have been planning for the contingencies, all the various outcomes, all the possible outcomes of the negotiation", including no deal.

7. Liam Fox: "The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history"

The biggest whopper of them all is from international trade secretary Liam Fox.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme in July last year, Fox said:

The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.

We are already beginning with zero tariffs, and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence, as it is called.

In other words, our rules and our laws are exactly the same.

8. Nigel Farage: "I'm reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum"

Nigel Farage, arguably the architect of all things Brexit, has firmly stood by his belief that that the UK is better off outside the EU.

Yet back in January 2018, he was growing exasperated about the Brexit debate and claimed on live television that there should be a second referendum to settle the issue once and for all.

9. Nigel Farage: "I never promised it would be a huge success"

Just in case you haven't had enough of Farage here is another zinger from his back catalogue of absolute clangers that have come back to haunt him.

This was said on LBC radio in May 2018 and it really does beggar belief. What sort of success did he promise? A small one?

10. Dominic Raab: "I hadn't quite understood the full extent of this but... we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing"

Ahh...Dominic Raab. How could we forget you? Maybe one of the most chaotic and underwhelming spells of any minister during this whole debacle.

Perhaps the point where we realised that he wasn't quite cut out for this job was when in November 2018 he admitted that he didn't realise how important the actual crossing between Dover and Calais was for trade deals.

Did he not realise that the country he is from is an island?

11. Jacob Rees-Mogg: "The UK will be a better destination for investors once we have left the EU "

There are literally hundreds of quotes from Jacob Rees-Mogg that we could include in here but his constant claims about the UK's prosperity after Brexit is a real sticking point.

In February 2019 he twice claimed that the UK and London will be flooded with investors looking to plunge their money into this newly rejuvenated post-Brexit economy.

The problem here is that Rees-Mogg, himself isn't investing in the UK, and has his own investment firm, Somerset Capital Management, which has a set up in Dublin, where it can benefit the EU laws and regulations.

12. Matt Hancock said that proroguing parliament is against "everything that those men who waded onto those beaches fought and died for"

During his leadership campaign, the current health secretary Matt Hancock outright refused to support the proroguing of parliament, which did happen but was deemed unlawful.

Not only did he do that but he also made reference to World War 2 and the Normandy landings which is possibly a little tasteless.

Hancock who did vote to remain is currently a member of Johnson's cabinet and is yet to say anything about the potential suspending of parliament, so this is all very awkward.

13. Michael Gove said that 'we'd hold all the cards' after leaving the European Union

This one actually goes back to before the referendum and is from April, when Michael Gove and the Vote Leave campaign was trying to whip up support for Brexit. At the time he said:

The day after we vote to leave we hold all the card and we can choose the path we want. It's also important to realise that while we calmly take our time to change the law, the one thing that will not change is our ability to trade freely with Europe. The In campaign often argues is that we would find it impossible to reach a trading agreement with the EU nations after we vote leave. There are, of course, some questions up for negotiation which will occupy out highly skilled foreign office civil servants, resolving them full and properly won't be any more complicated or onerous than the day-to-day work that they undertake now.

Given everything that has happened since Gove said this and all the evidence pointing towards 'the UK not holding the cards' the Tory minister was asked by Andrew Marr on Sunday if he regretted saying that. Predictably, Gove did not.

This article was originally published on 20/3/2019

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