The day was 23 June 2016. It was warm. It was a Thursday. All around the country, people nipped to polling stations to decide whether they wanted Britain to remain in the European Union – as it had for over 40 years – or go it alone.
And as people woke up to go to work the following day, they did so to the news that Britain’s international relations with its closest neighbours would be changing irreversibly.
“F***”, said 48 per cent of Brits. “Yay”, said the other 52 per cent.
Of course, those who pushed for Britain to leave the EU believed it would be an overwhelmingly positive policy and one that we would celebrate for years to come. When people suggested there may be some negative consequences, they rolled their eyes at the ‘scaremongering’ Remainers who wished to ‘trample’ on democracy. The message, overwhelmingly, was Brexit would be great. It was time to get it done.
Five years on, the consequences of Brexit are still unfolding slowly as Britain goes through puberty, shunning its neighbours and redefining itself as an ‘independent’ and ‘sovereign’ nation.
And unfortunately, some of the alarms Remainers sounded back in 2016, ones that Brexiteers ignored, are proving to ring true.
1. Food shortages and price increases
When Britain left the EU, some people stockpiled foods fearing Brexit would impact trade with some European countries. Brexiteers laughed as they tucked into their Spam and potatoes. “Food would be fine!” they claimed. Two years later, the government created the role ‘food supplies minister’, not alarming anyone at all, as a no-deal Brexit seemed more likely, and in 2019, Wetherspoons ran out of bacon. Now, deal or no deal, even the Brexit loving Daily Express reports on food shortages caused by Brexit: “Worker shortages are being fuelled by European employees returning home due to Brexit and the pandemic, new visas needed for unskilled workers,” they recently admitted.
Do you remember when as a country we didn’t need to appoint a specific Minister For Ensuring We Don’t All Fucking S… https://t.co/ttobUmiheb
This April, we saw days of unrest as people protested about the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit, which puts a de facto border in the Irish sea between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain and places checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland. Over 90 police officers were injured and one of Brexit’s biggest fanboys even suggested that leaving the EU was of consequence to this:
3. Businesses relocating
After the Brexit referendum, people voiced concerns that some businesses may relocate to escape negative consequences like taxes, extra red tape, and the inability to trade freely and hire EU staff. Brexiteers dismissed these concerns but as of 2021, 440 financial services firms have done a runner, according to think tank New Financial. Meanwhile, in 2019, Barclays moved £166bn of its clients’ assets to the Irish capital, stating that it could not wait any longer to implement Brexit contingency plans. Even hoover mogul James Dyson, who supported Brexit, has moved his headquarters to Singapore.
Challenging. Difficult. They didn’t splash that on the side of a bus.
4. Racism against minority groups
Concerns that people advanced Brexit due to xenophobia and racism were voraciously denied by Brexiteers who claimed Remainers were out of touch with the will of ordinary people. While it would be ridiculous to suggest that everyone who voted for the policy did so to break British ties with people from other countries, what we do know is that after the vote occurred, so did hate crime incidents.
In 2019, 71 per cent of people from ethnic minorities reported having faced racial discrimination, compared with 58 per cent in January 2016, according to polling data.
A recent LSE report about the issue said: “The referendum altered the dominant social norm by publicly revealing that anti-immigrant views across the country were more widespread than was previously believed, and this caused the norm to shift, rendering anti-immigrant attitudes more acceptable”.
5. British Fish For British People
Brexit has given fish an unexpected amount of press over the last few years.
Many proponents of Brexit claimed it was incredibly important for Britain to reclaim its fish, fundamentally disregarding the fact that fish swim, and therefore don’t stay in one country’s waters...
Anyway, fish was on the menu for a lot of Brexiteers, until they realised the Brexit trade deal was a bit, ahem, fishy.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has claimed the Brexit trade agreement was “a great deal” for the fishing industry after outrage from fishing companies, who said additional red tape and delays have lost them unable to reach European export markets.
All this talk of fish has got us hungry, and speaking of hungry, remember when Brexiteers claimed it would be easy to negotiate a deal with the EU following the referendum and there would not be years of messing about? Former UKIP leader Gerard Batten once said: “A trade deal with the EU could be sorted out in an afternoon over a cup of coffee.”
Five years of messing about later and Brexit proved to be more like cooking something with one small match than Johnson’s ‘so-called ‘oven ready’ deal.
Alas, Brexit finally got “done” in January 2021. Brexiteers gave themselves rounds of applause for securing the deal, but the years of uncertainty that preceded it, as we have seen, caused firms to leave the UK and wasn’t it just a complete headache?
A consequence of being outside the EU is that ex-pats living in certain parts of Europe, such as Spain, can’t just live there as they please for the rest of their lives. Brits who don’t take Spanish citizenship now have to leave the country every 90 days and spend 180 days back in the UK to avoid being deemed ‘illegal immigrants.’
This inevitability of ending British people’s rights to live and work in the EU was dismissed back in 2019 by pro-Brexit campaign group Leave.EU who called it another part of “Project Fear” and claimed that the Spanish PM had said that Brexit would not affect ex-pats.
Er lads - @LeaveEUOfficial https://t.co/1FhprD9zF8
It is 23 June 2021. All around the country people nip out with masks to face a world now plagued with the spectre of infection from coronavirus and watch Britain try to assert itself as a tiny little global player. As we can see, it’s hardly been a walk in the park.