Nobody said it was easy, sang Coldplay. This lot did
“If you take Brexit seriously, which I do, you can’t say you can do all that in a jiffy.”
But plenty told us we could. As a chaotic couple of days in the Commons threatens to tear British politics apart, with both main parties gripped by an existential crisis provoked by Brexit, it’s worth remembering that some of its most vocal adherents claimed breaking away from four decades of legislation and trading arrangements was no more complicated than quitting a Spectator subscription.
So here they are – seven times the Brexiteers said this was a walk in the park…
Last July the international trade secretary took a break from doing whatever it is he does all day to tell Radio 4 Today listeners that a post-Brexit deal with the EU would be ‘the easiest in human history’. He said: ‘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.’
The disgraced former defence secretary did, however, go on to warn that ‘the only reason that we wouldn’t come to a free and open agreement is because politics gets in the way of economics’. Which is a bit like announcing his plan to become Formula One world champion and that ‘the only reason that I wouldn’t is because I can’t drive’.
The Downing Street adviser turned presenter on cabbies’ favourite LBC backed up Dr Fox’s comments, telling his listeners in April that a Brexit deal ‘should be the easiest in human history because frankly it’s in everyone’s interests for it to happen smoothly’. That said, he has also said of May’s crack Brexit team that ‘we are exceptionally fortunate that they are working on Brexit and going through it piece by piece in great detail on our behalf” and that they are ‘doing absolutely a brilliant job, having seen it up close,’ so it is entirely possible he is mad.
The former social security secretary and Britain’s leading Gilbert and Sullivan parodist confidently claimed in December that a deal would be done in 10 minutes. He told Newsnight: ‘Because the Canadian agreement took eight years to negotiate doesn’t mean it would take a very long time for us to negotiate something similar. We start with zero tariffs. We want to end with zero tariffs. That takes 10 minutes.’ He and his soothsaying abilities have since been elevated to the House of Lords.
The Ukip leader before the one before the one before the present one told Today last year that it ‘will be easy to negotiate these terms’. The doctor/footballer said: ‘It will be easy to negotiate a trade deal, and of course, it’s in the European Union’s interest, just as it is in ours.’
In other comments which have definitely aged well, he added: ‘We have Donald Trump saying he wants to put Britain at the front of the queue when it comes to a trade deal.’
The man who is Ukip’s leader at the time of writing agreed with his predecessor, telling the BBC’s Daily Politics last year that it could be done ‘in an afternoon’. He said: ‘What you could do in an afternoon, which won’t take two years, is to say to the European Union ‘we want to continue with tariff-free trade and so do you because it’s in your interest – you can have three of your four freedoms, goods, services, capital’.’ He added that Angela Merkel would sign up to such a deal unquestioningly because of the ‘German car manufacturers’.
The former Wales secretary and Hard Brexiteer told visitors to his blog in 2016 that ‘getting out of the EU can be quick and easy’ as ‘the UK holds most of the cards in any negotiation’. He wrote: ‘Getting our contributions back, deciding our own laws and having our own migration policy were the three biggest points of the Leave campaign. These are all non negotiable.’ He added, with all the insouciance of a man with a stack of washing up: ‘We should just get on and do them.’
Another Tory hardliner, the badger-bothering former environment secretary wrote on the Leave Means Leave website that ‘once the bill has been triggered, negotiations with the EU can begin and Britain will start off from a position of strength. Our European neighbours will want to secure access to the UK market as they sell far more to us than we sell to them.’ He didn’t specifically mention German car manufacturers, but that’s who he was thinking of. It’s always the German car manufacturers.