Ending the Love Affair – 15 February 2023


Rishi Sunak’s Belfast visit was underwhelming not just because he hasn’t grown into Prime Ministerial office. His trumpeting how good a deal Northern Ireland has with access to the single market and reduced Brexit frictions was all but lost. Overshadowed by global events and the momentous accession of a Nationalist First Minister. Unionists despondent and Republicans savouring the moment and eyeing the bigger prize of a border poll.

Meanwhile industrialists and manufacturers in Scotland and across the UK could only look and envy. Why invest in Scotland, even with a few quid thrown at the A75, when options lie across the North Channel? The absurdity of Sunak stating how good a deal it was for Northern Ireland but persisting with pursuing the Brexit Valhalla for the rest of us was starkly evident.

Rejoining the single market is critical. Magical post Brexit trade deals just aren’t happening. Canada’s has been put back to the drawing board and most obtained so far are either derisory or even damaging.  Another American President will soon have come and maybe gone and still no trade deal with the USA, which was to be the anchor for the brave new world we would enter departing from the EUs shores.

Yet wilful blindness afflicts Starmer as much as Sunak. Not only is Tory economics to be continued but so is this absurdity of refusing to get back into the single market. A step which would allow businesses to trade with relative ease with markets nearby, and which are of greater scale and that they know well.

Of course, the reason is that they both reject free movement of labour which would be consequent to the single market. Having made immigration their major issue they’re also now left with the perversity of a labour shortage and requiring them to bring in workers from abroad who are less skilled and from countries far harder to assimilate.

But blame for this self-inflicted harm has also to apply to those seeking to rejoin the EU. Sturgeons failure to push for a Northern Ireland deal was criminal but will be lost in her sins of commission than this of just omission. The mantra “We Love EU” never worked in 2016 and has long since ceased to have relevance let alone validity. Pushing against the grain, rather than delivering the practical and something far easier to sell to a sceptical public, has come at a cost to us all.

Ending the Love Affair with the EU and where mournful zealots live for the return to the Promised Land is also essential. The EU never was a paragon of virtue and certainly isn’t now. Those who condemn the Tories and live for a return of the ancient regime should consider what they’re arguing for.

Patel and her ilk are odious on immigration but have they had a look at the EU? UKBA are Boy Scouts in comparison to Frontex. A friend who visited Bulgaria and the EU border with Serbia said the behaviour was barbaric. “Repel the boats” is benign in comparison to what’s happening there.

So can Brexiteers stop living the lie that its working and Remainers cease looking back to supposed halcyon days that aren’t returning. And let’s just get back into the single market for our economy and society’s sake.