The Spectator

In defence of Brexit

Opponents of Brexit have been given plenty of ammunition in recent weeks. Trade with the European Union has taken a big knock. Many British exporters say that owing to the excessive bureaucracy they can no longer sell to the Continent. The United Kingdom’s new trade deals have promised a lot but delivered little. There is worldwide inflation, but Britain is still expected to be the worst economic performer in Europe next year, by some margin.

Opinion polls suggest an ever-growing number of voters think it was a mistake to leave. This magazine is the only publication to have backed British independence in both the 1975 and 2016 referendums – arguing on both occasions that it was time to go ‘Out, and into the world’. That remains our view. Brexit has indeed exposed deep problems with our low-pay, high-welfare economy. That exposure can only be a good thing.

The 2016 referendum was a democratic shock which disorientated the political class and forced them to take stock. Both Labour and the Tories have since tried their best to listen to voters in small-town communities that had been overlooked and undervalued. Such communities value the nation state as a social entity, not just an economic one. They voted to dial back a particular model of globalisation that threatened to exclude them.

Put simply, Brexit is a project that needs to be judged over decades

An adjustment is taking place. Where New Labour once prided itself on using cheap migrant labour to grow the economy, Keir Starmer talks about weaning the economy off the drug of mass immigration. The Tories must try to defend their new Red Wall voters against Starmer’s manoeuvres. That these long-neglected parts of the population are being taken more seriously is an achievement of Brexit.

The fact that both the Tories and Labour have had to sit up and take notice of a wider range of the electorate means that Britain is today the only European country with no populist party in parliament.

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