Brexit is bad for Britain

Published on March 29, 2017

From Stephen Dorrell

Theresa May says that the referendum result means we should all come together and collude in a pretence that Brexit is good for Britain. I profoundly disagree.

Too often I hear an argument which begins “The referendum result must be accepted; I regret the outcome, but we have to make the best of it”.

I was a member of the Cabinet which lost power to Labour in 1997. On that occasion I had been closely involved in the development of locally managed NHS Trusts and other health reforms during the 1990s. My Labour successor, Frank Dobson, made it clear he wanted to reverse those changes. No-one expected me to declare that it had all been a terrible mistake. It wasn’t and I didn’t.

And when Labour government changed its mind and confirmed what was in effect the same policy – under a different brand and with more money – I spoke in its support.

That is how representative democracy works. Those involved in public life seek support for their point of view and when they win, they have a mandate to follow through their policy for as long as they can sustain that support.

But those who disagree with them have not merely the right, but the obligation, to argue their case, not out of a misplaced commitment to consistency, but because our society benefits from noisy debate between those with different points of view.

So it is with the European issue.

It is certainly true that the economic shock effect of the referendum result was not as great as I expected. But that does not change my view that the economic consequence of Brexit would be to create unnecessary economic headwinds which would reduce our economic prospects, undermine our individual living standards and threaten the quality of our public services.

And I observe that this continues to be the overwhelming majority view of not just of professional economists, but also of those in both the public and private sector who are responsible for making the key economic decisions which will shape our future.

But that is not the most important reason why I am a lifelong supporter and the current Chair of the European Movement. That has much more to do with the issues which led to the foundation of the Movement in 1948.

When Churchill spoke at the inaugural meeting in 1948 he did not make it sound like a contract negotiation; he supported European integration because he believed that all countries in post war Europe depended on the success of their neighbours.

Success in one country was an implausible basis for policy. If that was true in 1948, how much more true is it in the age of globalization?

I am opposed to Brexit because we believe it represents an attempt to insulate Britain from the modern world. The case has been built on a series of undeliverable promises which threaten not merely our living standards but the system of values, friendships and alliances which Britain has built in the post-colonial era.

It is an elaborate gothic fantasy, worthy of Ludwig of Bavaria. But it is built on quicksand and there is an urgent public interest in ensuring that it is exposed.

In a healthy democracy those who take this view not only have the right to make our case; we have an inescapable obligation to do so.

Stephen Dorrell
European Movement UK

Our movement is powered by people like you coming together to battle for the soul of our country!

Showing 2 reactions

  • Matthew Orzel
    commented 2017-05-18 09:57:47 +0100
    I agree with Anthony 100%. We aren’t in this mess because of the vote. We are in this mess because politicians chose votes / careers / pay packet rather than their opinions and the benefit of the country. The referendum was legally only advisory and your party made a mess of it at every single step of the way. Not only that, it was fought poorly on both sides driving division both here and in mainland Europe.

    We now stand in a place where quality comes second to the brainwashing nonsense of ‘strong and stable’. Strong and stable would have been telling people that while politicians appreciate the sentiment, the public were wrong. The apparent ‘strong and stable’ government did nothing but cower to the will of the mob, resulting in countless resignations and leadership battles. The slogan is so depressingly ironic.

    You discuss a potential fall in living standards, but that has been happening long before Brexit. To a lot of people, Brexit is the consequence, not the cause. Talk to any teacher (my profession) and available resources have been dwindling to breaking point. Insulating Britain appeals to a huge amount of people who have been forgotten in the globalisation process. Brexit is happening because countless of the poorer locations feel left out of progress and feel abandoned, a lot of people all over Europe feel the same. A simple walk down previously thriving high streets would show anyone this, yet our current world is forgetting small businesses and old trades in favour of corporations and cheaper foreign work. All anyone needs to do is walk around the thousands of abandoned Romanian factories to see that their local economy was far stronger prior to globalisation, their young now leave and their government has to resort to bribing them to return home. Anti globalisation sentiment will only grow as more and more people get left behind by ‘progression’. Le Pen voting francophones aren’t exactly happy.

    Strong and stable would have been ‘thank you for the advice given by this referendum, we will now use this as a mandate, with the potential to ultimately leave’. Not ’we’re going no matter the deal’.

    I really wish the best of luck to the pro-EU conservative members. It is refreshing to have politicians standing up for their beliefs rather than towing party line because they are told to.

    I abstained from the EU vote (despite having a Romanian fiancee who is now at risk). I did so because the globalisation and entanglement of nations as it currently is isn’t working. I also didn’t want the current mess.

    I implore you (probably fruitlessly) to get your party thinking properly. I know it will be fruitless and the path has been started upon, but we all have a duty to say the system isn’t right, but neither is the planned remedy.
  • Anthony Dunn
    commented 2017-05-17 13:19:14 +0100
    Stephen, when are you going to start taking on your former Tory colleagues by calling them out for their spineless, gutless and craven stance before and since the triggering of Article 50? This entire issue kicked off as a spat within the Tory party and it became the issue it has because you and your fellow pro-Europeans conspicuously failed to take on and defeat the far-right Little Englander ultra-nationalists in the Tory party (the likes of Bone, Redwood, Chope etc.).

    What is also lacking is any indication of just what is being done to address the (apparently) 90% of Tory pro-remainers who intend voting for the Maybot and award her the mandate to deliver a granite hard Brex**it. You were a Tory minister and I would hope that you could start giving a clear indication of the kind of messaging to deploy with these Tory voters. But to date, nothing.