As Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak cling onto the symbol of Brexit for dear life, it is clear that the defining issue of the 2019 General Election will not be going anywhere anytime soon. Three years ago, it was about getting Brexit done and – this time around – the focus is on actually getting to grips with what Brexit is and what Brexit can do.
Like it or not, Boris Johnson did indeed get Brexit done. He agreed to Britain’s departure from the European Union before taking the nation out of the Single Market in the process, going for a relatively Hard Brexit. Home Secretary Priti Patel then doubled down on this by ending Freedom of Movement in Britain – supporting the anti-immigration feeling that came with Brexit.
The clean slate was formed and the key decisions were inspired by the Leave campaign. Phase one done! Phase two, on the other hand, has never really got off the ground.
The burning issue for me is the lack of transparency with the next big steps. What do we do now after leaving these big global conventions? Where are the building blocks to build Britain’s new dawn? Instead of specifics, we have often been treated to a Grade A display of verbose nothingness, usually amounting to a rendition of chest pumping patriotism and evidenceless optimism for a better future.
Right now, Brexit is on the back benches as the cost of living crisis takes centre stage. Before the cost of living, it was the global pandemic. Some people would argue that has protected the shortcomings of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal from being exposed. Others might say these distractions have prevented the Government from addressing such issues.
Project Rwanda represents an opportunity to deviate from the status quo, doubling down on Patel’s desire to part ways with the Freedom of Movement. However, the Government would have to treble down on their Right-wing migration stance if they wanted this to happen – removing Britain from the European Convention of Human Rights.
Leaving a convention – backed by 46 European countries – that protects the rights of citizens in all of those countries would certainly cause a stir. Rights of all British citizens would be wiped clean in favour of a new set of rules that would be written by the UK Government.
Who would be influencing those new rights? Big business leaders, who want maximum productivity and profit, would no doubt have their say in a move that could see the rights of ordinary Britons diluted. It is a double-edged sword.
Do I back the Rwanda plan? No. Morality aside, it seems like a lot of time and a lot of money to make a symbolic point. However, it would demonstrate that the Government is committed to controlling Britain’s borders and that was a key reason why many in 2016 voted to leave. Immigration wasn’t the only deciding factor for Leave voters, though, and the new Prime Minister would be a fool to think that it was.
It is quite insulting to label all Leave voters as racist. Many were simply sick of the status quo and wanted change. The effect of immigration on working-class towns was a contributing factor for many but others wanted to see a change in economic policy, a reboot of public services, and growth inspired by British businesses.
Leaving the Single Market was also supposed to force us into an island of self-sufficiency. Instead, we haven't really got the ball rolling. Tom Harwood lambasted the lack of movement on building our own energy and it is tough to argue with his desire to reinforce energy supplies on British soil, sustainably building towards a future where we are not placed over a barrel at the mercy of multinational corporations and their sky-rocketing costs.
The danger is that Brexit becomes an issue dominated by Right-wing ethics with less thoughts on economic opportunity and transformative policy. While starting projects on British shores might not be as a direct result of Brexit, the fact we have isolated ourselves from our European neighbours should be encouraging national creative solutions to issues. Think Cast Away, with Tom Hanks, who found many creative ways to survive on a deserted island – perhaps minus the Wilson the ball!
Brexit could still be a success if it had a dedicated government behind it. Well, Britain could still be a success. If you are a Brexiteer, that will read because of Brexit and, if you are a Remainer, it will read in spite of Brexit. Those tribalistic instincts are unlikely to change. But that progression will need a government willing to think beyond slogans.
Slogans win elections but they don’t get the job done. The fact of the matter is that residing in the European Union meant that we could coast along with our daily lives without too much thought. Brexit will not allow that. Create a hard-working government backed up with a relentless Civil Service and Britain can grow to be great.
However, if there are too many shirkers at the top, the deck of cards will come crashing down and Britain will be left to wallow in a pit of misery. Brexiteers will start to wonder what the point of all of this was. Remainers will say, 'I told you so'. Some are already doing just that.
Boris Johnson’s Government might have delivered on the will of the people but his band of misfits were not the people to carry it forward. I’ve seen more substance from prawn crackers than that cabinet! The Remainers are winning the argument at the moment and, until a future government – soon to be spearheaded by Sunak or Truss – takes the bull by the horns, it is tough to see that changing.