The United Kingdom is being pelted with news that only stand to reinforce the idea that Brexit is hurting us, but it seems the government would rather remain oblivious.
The United Kingdom has been told repeatedly since the beginning of this year that it cannot have its cake and eat it. It cannot leave the European Union, achieve all the goals of the nationalist tendency that put Brexit on the table, and simultaneously remain in the single market. These are statements being made by the bureaucrats that currently hold all the cards. Monoliths such as Donald Tusk, and foreign leaders such as Francois Hollande, remain adamant that Brexit has a price. That price will be no concept of pre-negotiation, and then a very thorny choice between a cutting political divorce or no divorce at all. For the time being, it would appear that the latter choice is simply not being tabled by anyone in government as a possibility.
It would be political suicide for the ruling party to reject the affirmative results of a plebiscite that they themselves enabled. If this step were taken by the Conservatives, it would give Labour huge media capital to claim that they were anti-democracy and authoritarian – a claim largely supported by Theresa May’s markedly muddy history as Home Secretary. As such, it still seems incredulously unlikely that the May administration would consider, for even a second, the lofty proposal of remaining and striking out against the referendum result. Boris Johnson will claim we can have our cake and eat it too, even though we might end up with neither. “Brexit a la carte”, as it goes, is an enigma.
We can’t see inside these politicians’ heads; it might be that they, too, want Brexit to be recognised as dangerous, despite its popular endorsement. It is hard to point out the difficulty Brexit poses when the majority voted for it. It appears patronising to claim career politicians know better than the public, when they don’t believe Brexit is half as bad as you say it will be; this is part of why Remain failed. So, what would need to happen before such a radical proposal as rejecting Brexit might come to be seen? What will it take to stop Boris from pining over that unreachable cake?
The fact of the matter is that more and more evidence is showing us that Brexit is harming more than it could ever help. The pound is rapidly falling against the dollar and euro, banks are preparing (not threatening, actually preparing) to leave the United Kingdom by 2017, and of course, there’s “Marmitegate” too. While it might seem the most innocent because of its sheer comedic value, there is a multitude of reasons why Marmite is probably the closest we have got so far to something that could stop Brexit. While vacationing in Europe might become more difficult, it is an occasional luxury for most. Banks too are a concern; their departure will have an economic impact, but on the ground, the correlation will be hard to spot.
Surprisingly, then, it is Marmite that demonstrates where Brexit could reveal itself for what it really is. Unilever’s frustrations in the lead up to its bout with Tesco are indeed tied to the exchange rate change, but changes in food price are a completely different issue. If instances such as this are on the rise (almost indisputable in the context of a faltering exchange rate), it is highly probable that eventually, customers will begin to notice changes in the prices of everyday goods, and, perhaps, changes in their standard of living. When the impact of Brexit stops being bureaucratic and political and starts being day-to-day, it brings to the people what they have for the most part lacked thus far: a view of the harm that leaving the European Union will cause us. Those most disaffected by politics, and those most likely to vote Leave in the referendum, came from poorer backgrounds. It is these people who will suffer as basic necessities become more expensive. This is a porthole into the future of our country – where you cannot acquire Marmite and everyone has forgotten what having cake felt like, where prices are on the rise and living standards are falling, with the backdrop of the uncertainty that has followed us ever since the referendum was tabled.
Before such a dystopia forms, there is little political clout behind rebutting the referendum decision. What is surprising is that little polling has been published recently to confirm there has been no change in public opinion (previously shown to be quite hardy) following the recent changes in the UK economy. After a few weeks of “Bregret”, the issue was put to rest and the mainstream media assumed the same attitude as the government; we will grin and bear the pain, regardless of how it is still entirely undoable. If it were discovered that a majority now felt Brexit was the wrong choice, then MPs and the government alike would feel more prepared to back Remain even in the context of its loss.
Of course, the sad truth is probably that most have returned to not particularly caring about political decision-making, as was the case before the referendum was tabled. However, it would still be a mistake to write off the people at large on the issue of Brexit. The worst is, doubtless, yet to come. As Donald Tusk has told us, when it comes to the Brexit negotiating table, there will be no cake; only salt and vinegar. All that remains is for the public to get a taste.