Every time I hear the word sovereignty, I reach for my revolver, I just can’t help it. Because I have a confession to make – despite having been an economic and business journalist for the last 40 years, my degree is in International Relations. That subject consists of studying many different things, but mainly sovereignty, over and over again. I must have liked it because I even spent three months at Wolfson College Cambridge, studying attitudes to sovereignty in Europe, as a visiting Press fellow.
So, when people like Andrea Leadsom tell us that the costs of Brexit, which they occasionally admit to, are far outweighed by the fact that the UK has “regained its sovereignty”, something in me dies a little.
The UK never lost its sovereignty. When Britain joined the EU, it joined an economic club where you could leave anytime you wanted, and when the UK decided to leave the door was held open for it to do just that. If we had lost our sovereignty we could not have left and there certainly wouldn’t have been an option to leave in the rules of the organisation, the Lisbon Treaty.
So, what is Andrea Leadsom wittering on about? Well, she seems to equate sovereignty with control of what she calls, “our borders, our money and our laws”.
Control of our borders is a difficult one for her and her ilk, because the borders are obviously far more open than they were before Brexit. There were no small boats before we left the EU, and legal, sanctioned and government approved immigration was lower than it is now. Oops.
Money, by which I assume she means the £350 million lie on the side of that bus, is even less of a win from “regained sovereignty”. We have lost more than we ever put into the EU, just by leaving. The funds for the regions and for farmers have not been replaced, the economy is smaller than it would have been, investment is flatlining and trade with our largest trading partner – the EU – is getting harder. We have declared a trade war on ourselves.
Leadsom’s other claim, that sinceBrexit we have signed far better trade deals than we had in the EU, is just ludicrous. Making trade more difficult with our largest market has caused huge economic damage that no other trade deal could ever offset. Trade deals can never offset that damage and the only really new agreements are with Australia and New Zealand, both of which are disastrously bad for the UK. Where is the US trade deal? The Canadian deal?
As for laws, I am at a loss. What new laws have we passed that are different, that we are free to introduce because we are no longer the slaves of Brussels? Do tell, because I can think of none, whatsoever.
Then Leadsom tells LBC and Times radio that red tape, costs, delays and border controls are just “the price you pay for being a sovereign state again”.
Well no, they are the price other people pay for your mistakes, for telling us we would all be better off, that there would be an even better border, not a worse one.
Still, it is nice to see her finally admitting there are “costs” to Brexit, that is a start.
She is a slow learner, it is true, it has taken eight long years for her to work out that Brexit costs the UK dearly. The next bit: the costs are not worth it, are totally self-inflicted and have nothing to do with sovereignty, will take longer.
Longer, unfortunately, than we can afford.