Today at 11pm the UK leaves the European Union something that I’m still shocked is actually happening. It flies in the face of the way the world works but there you go. All I wanted to do today in this post is re-iterate what I said back in 2016 during the referendum which is that, while by no means perfect, the EU as an organisation is far more interested in people and need than our own government – whichever party is in power – has ever been. They understand better the social and economic disparities that exist and they are prepared- and able- to do something about it. As I said back in 2016 the EU basically saved Liverpool from the Tories idea of “managed decline” which is political shorthand for abandoning a place. No government should ever chose to write off swathes of the country and even though the actual policy was never officially taken up it was essentially followed simply by lack of investment or initiatives.
The EU on the other hand had Liverpool designated as an `Objective One` area seriously in need of investment and that came in the form of various grants over the years. There were limitations as to what it could be spent on but what happened was that from these seeds grew a revitalised city then capable of pulling itself up. It was the foundation of creating the climate for recovery. The city is thriving now despite government cuts to budgets and so on. The central tenet of the Brexit argument has always been “take back control” especially in economic terms. The nonsense peddled by the Leave campaign that all the money we might save by not having to contribute to the EU budget would be re-invested was swallowed by too many people. No UK government – Tory or Labour- would contemplate giving such large amounts of money to major cities to aide rejuvenation.
British governments seem to somehow squander money whereas EU grants actually achieve results as Liverpool is proof of. While the EU seeks to protect – by legislating on issues like health and safety or workers' rights- the British government seeks to be re-elected and that is what drives any prime minister. When you have EU membership there are checks and balances, without the EU our apparent democracy is drifting closer to some form of autocracy. So even if Brexit doesn’t cause the economic woes some say it will – and until we’ve left for a while nobody will really know- there won’t be anything like the same investment in communities that badly need a kickstart.
Though it hardly compensates I suppose a slim silver lining around this cloud is that we can hopefully wave goodbye to the architects of Brexit. Having successfully got what they want there is no reason for Nigel Farage and co to have our attention and certainly no evidence that they have a grasp of any other issue. Not that they really understood the ramifications of Brexit. Mind you we can’t even call the whole thing a farrago because it sounds too much like a Farrage-o which he’d like.
Perhaps the biggest legacy of this whole thing will be the confirmation that slogan politics is now the dominant style. There have always been slogans, catchphrases etc but these were to introduce policies. Now they have become the policies. People are not really interested in inconvenient detail or actual facts that undermine those slogans. They just want a reassuringly simple message that will fit neatly beside a hashtag, something they can repeat and repeat till it becomes a fact rather than a slogan.
On a wider viewpoint I find the idea that we are somehow going to be better off in some sort of splendid isolation making our own rules as incompatible with the way the world now operates. We are more connected than ever – as one advert puts it “we are not an island- but part of much more”- and we don’t have a monopoly on great ideas just because of inventions of the past. I do think we’ll rejoin the EU one day, not in the near future perhaps, but when generations now growing up who realise the folly of Brexit will be in a position to do something about it and all the Brexit spokespeople will be long gone. I hope I see it but more than that I hope it happens. So whisper it now but one day it will become unstoppable - BRETURN!!