Boris Johnson’s Brexit victory was a victory that was not worth the loss


Winner, spoils. Boris Johnson wins the referendum Britain joined the European Union more than five years ago and continues to win the leadership of the Conservative Party July 2019, Reached an agreement with the European Union In october And achieved a decisive victory under the British postal system, which is the “last to last” postal system. December General Election. He rebuilt his country. But did he make it better or worse? Did he increase the opportunities for the British, or did he reduce them? Does he make Britain more influential and prosperous, or is it less important? My answer to all these questions is: “the latter”. But I admit that this story is still too early.

One thing that quickly emerged (surprised to no people familiar with the matter) was that Brexitists misunderstood the European Union.Anand Menon of the United Kingdom in King’s College’s European Transformation Project notes Dominique Raab (current Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) in April 2016 “We can properly control our borders, but we don’t need to be bound by all these suffocating regulations… It is certainly not in the interest of Europeans to establish trade barriers.” The EU disagreed. There are indeed many obstacles: they will stay.

The reason for this predictable result is that member states regard the maintenance of the EU’s legal order, including the single market, as an overriding interest.This clearly from “EU-UK 2030”, Papers from the same unit. Take Denmark as an example. The United Kingdom is both its good friend and its fourth largest trading partner. But the volume of business between Denmark and other EU countries is more than six times that of the UK. The self-interest of the economy means protecting the EU market, not accommodating the UK. The same is true for other members. For all of them, the European Union is always first.

As Menon also sarcastically pointed out: “It is strange that a group of ideological purists want their interlocutors to be ideologically flexible and pragmatic.” It is clear that Brexit has strengthened the EU, not weakened it. it. Menon pointed out that “Even Marina Le Pen quickly realized that Brexit had no effect in increasing public support for Brexit.” Therefore, as British politicians should expect, EU member states are defending Fight for your own interests.

The chart shows the unbalanced dependence of the UK and the EU on each other's markets

Johnson’sCake doctrine“It’s stupid bravado, as his chief negotiator David Frost said, that the EU should “get rid of any remaining malice against us to leave, but establish friendly relations between sovereign equality.” Of course, if Johnson It will be easier to achieve this goal without lying about the impact of its transaction. Trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK Even dare to try Deny itThe EU rightly believes that he is not serious and untrustworthy.

As for “sovereign equality”, the United Kingdom and the European Union may have equal sovereignty in form. But they are far from equal. The UK’s economy is one-fifth of the EU’s, and its dependence on trade with the EU is far greater than the opposite. These are the realities of relative power. Realists like the Victorian Prime Minister Palmerston would understand this. Why can’t it be frosted?

The chart shows that the UK economy has experienced a difficult five years since the EU referendum

It is inevitable that this relationship will remain toxic for an indefinite future, especially given the British government’s apparent desire for friction with the EU. It is also inevitable that the UK will lose more than the EU.

What is the economic benefit? Brexit is certainly not the only shock that has hit the economy in the past five years. The other is Covid-19. But it is worth noting that between the second quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2021, the UK economy shrank by 4.3%. Italy’s performance is similar. But during this period, the Eurozone economy grew by 1.3%.Brexit also caused Huge initial shock to trade volume. There has since been a recovery, but UK trade will eventually decrease Otherwise it will be like this. This impact will accumulate over time and manifest as a worse economic performance than other situations.

This raises the question: What does it mean to “take back control”?

The chart shows that Brexit in January 2021 had a serious impact on UK trade, but it has recovered

There is no doubt that Brexit has lifted the restrictions on the government. The British Prime Minister with a majority can always do most of what they want, as long as they retain the support of Parliament. Now the government does not have to worry about EU rules. As a result, the government (44% of voters voted for it) can act more freely than before. This form of collective control may be significant to many people. Nevertheless, Brexit does not increase control over options in many areas that require international cooperation. Britain must still persuade other countries. But now it lacks a platform within the EU to do so.

What about the British? Have they regained control of their lives? At the very least, companies that trade with the EU and people who want to work and study there have lost a lot of control instead of taking it back.

The graph shows that the number of immigrants from the EU has fallen, but the number of people from other places has surged

We don’t know what future generations will think. But to me today, the Brexit promise to a large extent seems to be a ray of light. It does not increase control, but reduces it where it matters most to individuals and even the general public. Skilled instigators turn public dissatisfaction into hostility to the EU, which almost no one hates except immigration.The UK’s statistics in this regard are very bad: the number of EU citizens seeking “settlement status” turned out to be Reach 5.3 million by March 2021, Far exceeded expectations. However, what is striking is that as the number of immigrants from the European Union declines, the inflow of immigrants from other parts of the world is now soaring.

In the long run, Brexit may harm the United Kingdom, or even split the United Kingdom, and at the same time strengthen the unity of the European Union. If so, it will definitely be judged as a victory that is not worth the loss.

martin.wolf@ft.com

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