Why – oh dear God, WHY? – did 17,410,742 people vote for Brexit in June 2016?
Exit polls and other surveys indicated that the main motivations for Leave voters were to control immigration, to give an extra £350 million per week to the NHS and to stop giving money to Brussels altogether. Imagine how good they’re feeling about their choice now, when net migration for 2022 was a record 745,000, when whatever extra money has gone into the health service is plainly not making it much healthier, and when we have paid the EU £23.6billion in divorce payments so far, enough to cut income tax by at least 3p.
But maybe Brexit wasn’t really about those things in the first place. In the last few days, between mouthfuls of humble pie and kangaroo anus respectively, Rishi Sunak and Nigel Farage have offered alternative explanations of what leaving the EU meant and what it has delivered for the grateful British people.
On I’m A Celebrity…, the loathsome Farage was asked to name three Brexit benefits, but actually came up with four. “Self-government” was one, “hopefully take back our territorial waters” was another (more of a vain hope than a benefit, really) and the third would have had ordinary voters dancing in the streets: “The nuclear submarine deal with Australia. That could not have been done as a European Union member because France already had a contract. Simple as.”
Meanwhile, Sunak’s spokesperson was asked for the prime minister’s response to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen suggesting in an interview that Britain would one day return to the bloc. What followed was so haphazard and unconvincing it might have been spoken by Little Rishi himself: “It’s through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system. It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare.”
In summary then, we left the EU in order to be able to make better something that leaving the EU has already made much worse; we left the EU to make repeat prescriptions easier and we left the EU to improve animal welfare, which we have done by scrapping the actual Brexit bill to improve animal welfare. I don’t remember seeing any of those on the side of a bus. “We are very focused on making a success of it,” concluded the spokesperson, apparently unaware that Sunak is not making a success of it.
Which brings us to Farage’s fourth Brexit benefit. “The point about it is we can make a mess of it ourselves if we choose to,” said Nigel. Finally, a verifiable Brexit hit! On all the available evidence, we have not just chosen to make a mess of it ourselves, but succeeded in making the biggest mess imaginable. Hooray for world-beating Britain!