Shattered Dreams – the human cost of Brexit

“£350m a week more for the NHS”.

That was the tagline used by the Leave Campaign to peddle Brexit. It was plastered over the official Brexit bus, promoted by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Major news outlets, including the BBC, debunked this, which revealed the UK was sending closer to £161m a week.

This falsehood was not the only lie perpetuated by the Leave Campaign.

They claimed working people would save money by not having to pay tax contributions – a report from the Resolution Foundation and LSE has since found that Brexit has exacerbated the cost-of-living crisis, with working people predicted to lose as much as £470 a year by 2030.

They claimed Britain would be free to reach out across the world and make trade deals that would make the EU pale in comparison – the Office for Budget Responsibility found that Brexit had a “significant adverse impact” on British trade, reducing by 15% compared to if the UK had stayed in the EU.

They claimed Britain’s fishing industries would thrive, promising renewed power related to regulation, access and quotas, with over 90% of fishermen opting to vote in favour of Brexit based on these claims – a report from the University of York, New Economics Foundation, University of Lincoln and marine consultancy service ABPmer has found that these “new powers” are at best below modest, and at worst non-existent. The report also includes findings from the UK Government’s Sea Fisheries Statistics 2020 report, highlighting that the fishing industry’s GDP fell by 29% between 2019 and 2020.

To cover everything said by the Leave Campaign or by the successive Tory governments defending Brexit would make this the next “War and Peace.” More importantly, what they have not said needs to be covered.

Leading Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson claim we have “reclaimed our sovereignty;” all at the cost of opportunity for future generations, European comradeship with our neighbours, the ability to decide policies on a continental scale, and our standing as a world leader? Former Home Secretary Priti Patel celebrated the ending of “Freedom of Movement,” which meant EU citizens would require a visa to enter the UK and vice versa. Who is this a win for? Certainly not for working people, students, or anyone looking to enrich their lives through experiencing other cultures.

Families have been torn apart, both metaphorically and literally. The wide age-gaps between those that voted to remain and those that voted to leave reveal how the UK is a nation of two halves; one that yearns for a multicultural united world, and another that wants to “Take Back Control” – even if that means selling out future generations. And what of the lives forever changed by Brexit? Take the case of a British woman that moved to France, fell in love, and had a child with her partner. Upon coming back to the UK, the Home Office told her that her partner could not enter the country. This heartbreaking situation can be summed up in 5 words: “my son misses his papa”.

Shattered dreams were never advertised on the side of the official Brexit bus. Broken homes and displaced families were never spoken about by Boris Johnson or Michael Gove at press conferences. The Tories never “Got Brexit Done.” We, the British people and all our friends across the EU, got done.

* Jack Meredith is a Welsh Liberal Democrat member.

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27 Comments

  • Last year Brexit supporter Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent, suggested that if you told people what re-joining would entail a large number would likely be against doing so. He then did just that, describing what we would have to accept to people in his own survey, loading the dice against re-joining so to speak. The results? 52% still in favour of re-joining, 48% against it. Obviously not the result he was expecting. He dismissed this as “barely statistically significant”, which is interesting because it means that the country was allowed to make itself poorer on a referendum vote which, in his own words as a Brexiteer, was “barely statistically significant”.

    Since then the polls have become even stronger for re-join and this trend will continue as the older mainly Brexit generation pass on and the younger mainly anti-Brexit voters take over. The Libdems are no strangers to the truth, so stop dithering and come out unequivocally for re-joining the EU, or at least the EEA. Be the party of reality – the country and the people desperately need it as the damage caused by Brexit mounts up. Unless you don’t want to grab disillusioned potential Labour voters of course.

  • Martin Gray 2nd Aug '23 - 7:57pm

    “reveal how the UK is a nation of two halves; one that yearns for a multicultural united world”…
    Maybe if that half actually went out & voted in EU elections – the UK turnouts wouldn’t have been so woeful… Hardly anybody could name thier MEP or party affiliation in all honesty . For many the EU was irrelevant – it didn’t make one iota of a difference in their lives..

  • Leekliberal 2nd Aug '23 - 11:06pm

    Yes Jack – Shattered dreams indeed! …….and what have our leadership said about the disastrous handling of that Brexit vote? Nothing, a deafening silence. Shame on them!

  • “£350m a week more for the NHS”.

    That was the tagline used by the Leave Campaign to peddle Brexit. It was plastered over the official Brexit bus,…

    A DDG search for that “tagline” returns only three hits – one being this article.

    This is what the Vote Leave bus actually said…

    We send the EU £350 million a week
    let’s fund our NHS instead

    The Vote Leave campaign advocated this…

    ‘Statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Gisela Stuart on NHS funding’ [3rd. June 2016]:
    http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/statement_by_michael_gove_boris_johnson_and_gisela_stuart_on_nhs_funding.html

    After we Vote Leave on 23 June, the Government should use some of the billions saved from leaving the EU to give at least a £100 million per week cash transfusion to the NHS. […]

    By 2020, we can give the NHS a £100 million per week cash injection,…

    Parliamentary shenanigans delayed leaving by three years — this year we are still paying the EU £6 billion — so let’s compare 2016/17 with 2022/23…

    ‘The NHS budget and how it has changed’ [December 2022]:
    https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/nhs-in-a-nutshell/nhs-budget

    Department of Health and Social Care spending
    Real terms in 2022/23 prices
    2016/17: £142.2bn.
    2022/23: £180.2bn.

    That’s a real terms increase of £38 billion a year or £730 million a week.

    So, even if you thought Vote Leave had suggested all £350 million a week should be spent on the NHS then that’s been fulfilled more than twice over.

  • Rob MacNeall 3rd Aug '23 - 5:31am

    13m people couldn’t be bothered to vote in the referendum – no one knows which way they would have voted -but in a referendum where literally every vote counts this is a staggering amount of people who just simply weren’t interested in the outcome

  • Mark Frankel 3rd Aug '23 - 8:08am

    As Jack says, there has been a huge human cost of Brexit, not touched on in the media. For example, a friend of mine was running a small insurance business with clients in the EU. With Brexit, he had to relocate to Malta, where he got settled status. But his wife doesn’t, so she can only visit him subject to complex 90 day restrictions. Two other friends had to go through the emotional and financial strain of applying for settled status in the UK — while a third friend was gloating over his Irish passport.

  • Chris Moore 3rd Aug '23 - 8:34am

    As ever, Jeff, you fail to grasp the basic point that the UK’s contribution to the EU budget paid for services.

    These services we can now either not replicate at all or are likely more expensive on a go it alone basis: trade policy, for example.

    The real NET contribution of the UK to the EU over and above services received was much lower than the sum mentioned on the side of the bus.

    You mention an increase in NHS and social spending from 16/17 to 22/23. You have forgotten that for most of this period we were in the EU. You’ve also forgotten the distorting impact of COVID 19 on health expenditure figures.

    Come on, Jeff, you can do better than this.

  • George Thomas 3rd Aug '23 - 8:38am

    A slogan which implied £350 million a week extra on the NHS, and Vote Leave allowed people to think that it meant that, despite it not actually meaning that.

    A slogan which implies Vote Leave promised that extra level of spending despite it being an inaccurate claim.

    I think there is a poor understanding of politics currently which was easily manipulated by Vote Leave (and has been in other elections by both left and right) to lead to a horrible referendum and a horrible referendum result. Continuing to feed that misunderstanding doesn’t better the UK.

    Remain voters haven’t addressed that people felt like they were falling behind which led to a “nothing left to lose” and “lets kick the establishment who are telling us to remain” voting pattern. Sure there were an awful lot of rich folks who wanted to take back control for themselves, but they wouldn’t have won without the poorer more desperate families being taken along for the ride.

    The EU has changed significantly since UK started leaving. There is no re-join, we would be joining something different and as a minor player for several years after. It’s still the right thing to do and the earlier we start talking about it the better the outcome will be.

  • Chris Moore 3rd Aug '23 - 8:39am

    Many Brexit voters were motivated by worries about immigration. I personally don’t share those worries, though I do regard them as legitimate.

    No one on here has mentioned the eye-watering increase in net migration post-Brexit.

    Certainly, my many Brexiteer friends would not listen to me or anyone else when we tried pointing out that the EU was being made the scapegoat for a phenomenon with other causes.

  • David Symonds 3rd Aug '23 - 10:58am

    The Brexit result in 2016 has turned out to be a disaster all round. We need to find a way to re-align ourselves with the single market in some way even though joining the EU again is probably not going to happen for a long time. The EU itself does need some reform and many people i know who voted to leave thought the EU was a superstate in embryo, rather than of sovereign nation states. The best way for the UK is to rejoin and work to reform it from inside. Many people in Britain do not want an EU currency or defence force and wish to have a strong degree of self-determination though accepting that we need to have some pooled sovereignty. A lot of UK electors felt that the EU was being run by France and Germany and that the EU President (Ursula Von De Leyden) was becoming too dominant over our affairs. We didn’t join at the start so the original “six” probably felt that as the founding members they should have the most clout.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Aug '23 - 11:37am

    @John Davis “the country was allowed to make itself poorer on a referendum vote which, in his own words as a Brexiteer, was “barely statistically significant”.”
    I sympathise with your views, so this is coming from an anti-Brexit – though pedantic – position, but that’s not how statistics works! 🙂
    52:48 might not be “statistically significant” for a tiny sample from a large population, but that is not the same for the actual referendum in which 72% of that population (electorate in this case, not the country’s population!) voted.
    Perhaps the unfortunate result demonstrated the problem with attaching too much statistical significance to the pre-referendum polling; my suspicion that it masked “shy Brexiters” meant I voted Remain but bet on Brexit at 3:1 (my only ever bet!) so there was a small consolation.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Aug '23 - 2:36pm

    @ David Symonds.

    “many people i know who voted to leave thought the EU was a superstate in embryo, rather than of sovereign nation states.”

    I think this is the crux of the argument. If the EU wants to have a common currency, a Parliament and a Government (the European Commission) with the ability to enforce the supremacy of its own laws then what else can it be?

    Every other currency works because they are IOUs of government. The euro is no different in that respect but it does need something a bit better than the EC. The ECB does what it can to make the best of a bad job but it’s limited in what it can do. Sensibly the EC suspended the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact during the Covid emergency but they aren’t likely to be gone forever. We could see another euro debt crises shortly. Of course there wouldn’t be any problem if the EU were to become a fiscal transfer union but the Germans are dead set against that. They know that this is just another step to the United States of Europe but which does need to happen for the EU to succeed.

    So we should wish them well and let them get on with it without wanting to be a part of it.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2023/07/austerity-about-return-europe

  • David Evans 3rd Aug '23 - 4:12pm

    Peter (Martin),

    You say “They (the Germans) know that this is just another step to the United States of Europe but which does need to happen for the EU to succeed.”

    However this is only one view of what success means for the EU. There are others and our problem is that by leaving we lost all our influence over what the EU becomes.

    So the logical thing to do is that we should have stayed with them and influenced what they do rather than run off into an isolated corner pretending that what they do ‘if we just them get on with it without wanting to be a part of it’ is of no consequence for us.

  • @Peter Martin

    “If the EU wants to have a common currency, a Parliament and a Government (the European Commission) with the ability to enforce the supremacy of its own laws then what else can it be?”

    It can be what it already is, namely, a union of nation states.

    This was made explicitly clear in the “Special Protocol” that David C secured prior to the referendum.

    If the other member states were interested in establishing any sort of “superstate”, they have had years since the Brexit referendum to sit down, negotiate the basis for one and be well into ratifying it. None of them have proposed such a move or formally adopted such a policy at domestic level, much less proposed it for formal negotiation at EU level.

    PS The Commission isn’t a government, nor does it claim to be.

  • @Martin Grey

    “ For many the EU was irrelevant – it didn’t make one iota of a difference in their lives..”

    You should add “… that they knew of” to that statement.

    EU regulations covered – and post-Brexit – still cover everything from food & drinking water standards to air pollution and medicine. All of those issues can and do make a lot more than “ one iota of a difference” in peoples’ lives.

    It is no coincidence that the volume of sewage being dumped in our rivers and seas has increased substantially since Brexit or that the Conservatives are now in attack mode against the anti-air pollution ULEZ.

    Barnier’s memoir made it clear that right from the start the two areas that our Brexiters ruled out any form of cooperation with the EU on were: Workers’ Rights and Environmental Standards.

  • Martin Gray 4th Aug '23 - 4:53am

    @PaulR…
    For many in those post industrial towns that voted heavily to leave – must have been wondering just what those rights were – as zhc minimum wage agency work is the norm … Being in the EU didn’t save on job or one factory from closing ..As if the likes of Barnier was ever on thier side ! ….. EU membership was an irrelevance for millions – nothing changed for the better in their communities , only had to look around to realise that..

  • Peter Martin 4th Aug '23 - 8:57am

    @ Paul R

    “The Commission isn’t a government, nor does it claim to be.”

    What does it claim? In its own words:

    -The European Commission develops and implements EU policies by proposing laws to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.

    -helping EU countries implement EU legislation

    -managing the EU’s budget and allocating funding

    -ensuring that EU law is complied with together with the Court of Justice

    -representing the EU outside Europe together with the EU’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service.

    These sound like the things any government should be doing.

    The criticism isn’t that the EU doesn’t need a government. It is that it needs a better government than the Commission can provide. If the EU wants its laws to have primacy over national laws, it follows that it should have political supremacy too. It needs to be more like the USA in structure, with the nation states still having governments, but they would be more like the governments of the individual US States.

    I don’t particularly want to be part of the United States of Europe (incidentally the title of Guy Verhofstadt’s book) but at least we know that would work.

  • Peter Martin 4th Aug '23 - 10:50am

    “…..our Brexiters ruled out any form of cooperation with the EU on were: Workers’ Rights and Environmental Standards.”

    Those of us who opposed membership of the EU aren’t all of the same opinion any more than those who were in favour of it were all in agreement with David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May and Philip Hammond. Yet these Remainers were the ones who last spoke for the UK when we were members.

    The working class voters of the Northern Leave towns don’t necessarily share the same views as Lord Frost; except to say that while we are happy to co-operate with our neighbours it is ultimately down to the government of the UK to decide on all policies, including workers’ rights and environmental laws.

    We do want good standards. We just don’t want to rely on others to impose them on us.

  • Sorry Mr Martin, the Commission never has been and never will be a government. It is a civil service implementing decisions made by the council of ministers and the European Parliament. Yes, not does put forward proposals for measures to be taken by the EU (but so does the UK Civil Service) but it is not a decision making body, only an implementing one. Decisions are taken jointly by the Council of Ministers and the EU parliament, not by the Commission.
    Please do stop repeating Brexiteer’s lies about the Commission and its great power to rode roughshod over poor little countries against their will.
    Please also note that EU Commissioners are nominated by EU governments and approved by the parliament.
    More information about decision making in the EU can be found in the excellent book “Policy Making in the European Union” by Helen Wallace and William Wallace.

  • Peter Martin 4th Aug '23 - 12:42pm

    @ Mick, If you’re right that the EU will never develop its own government then it has no future. You should really learn to distinguish between a lie and an honest difference of opinion otherwise you might needlessly offend someone!

    It’s not just my opinion. There are lots of Federalists in the EU who say the same thing. My only difference with them is that want to live in the EU whereas I don’t! Emanuel Macron did at one time agree too. The big problem is the euro. Wolfgang Münchau of the FT describes the difficulties in the link below. To make it work effectively, for the whole of the EU, requires the creation of a Federal EU Govt which has the political authority to administer the currency on behalf of all EU citizens.

    Germany has to recognise that any debts run up by countries such as Greece and Italy are just as meaningless as the notional debts run up by the State of Mississippi or Tennessee towards the other individual states of the USA. This is the only way a single currency can possibly work.

    https://archive.is/JlYOB#selection-1709.0-1711.1

  • @Peter Martin
    “ The European Commission develops and implements EU policies by proposing laws to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.”

    That’s an interesting statement, I note the use of the word “proposing”, a government would be able to impose, like the Commons can. So it would seem the form of government the EU is currently navigating towards is something more democratic than the UK or US systems…

  • Peter Martin 5th Aug '23 - 10:29am

    @ Roland,

    The EC proposes the legislation in the European Parliament because neither the members on an individual basis nor the parties they belong to are allowed to do that. Of course having ‘proposed’ the legislation the Parliament is theoretically allowed to vote against it. The EP are rather like the House of Lords in this respect and I don’t think any of us would argue this is evidence of a greater degree of democratic accountability.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Aug '23 - 10:52am

    Peter Martin. Let me repeat, because you don’t seem to have heard or want to hear.
    It is untrue that the European Commission makes policy. It develops policy proposals at the behest of a number of bodies: the Council of Ministers; The European Parliament; the Committee of the Regions and it also suggests possible policy changes that it thinks might be relevant. But that’s it. Once a proposal is put forward it is debated, amended, and then approved or rejected by the Council of Ministers and/or the EP.
    The role of the EC after that is implementing the policy on behalf of the EU. It has not, does not and will not make policy. It is above all a civil service, though a damn sight more open than its UK equivalent.

  • The bottom line in the “federal EU” debate is: there is a huge difference whether you’re in the euro or not. In the euro implies gradual or potential federalisation for stated obvious reasons. But of course, not only was the UK one of 8 EU countries not in the EU the chances of the UK going in to the euro in the next 1000 years is (and was) practicaly zero.

  • Peter Martin 6th Aug '23 - 10:03am

    @ Mick,

    I don’t think you’ve properly read my comments. As I’ve already said:

    “If you’re right that the EU will never develop its own government then it has no future.”

    “The criticism isn’t that the EU doesn’t need a government. It is that it needs a better government than the Commission can provide.”

    If you like, you can add the Council of Ministers and whoever else you like to what passes for Government in the present ad-hoc and dysfunctional arrangement.

    The EU is stuck in a betwixt and between state. It’s no longer just the Common Market it once was but hasn’t yet developed the system of governance to properly control the extent of it’s own political and economic ambition.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Aug '23 - 2:00pm

    Wake up! This is the chance of a lifetime to lead from the front, capture the imagination of the British public and obtain the poll ratings last seen momentarily under Nick Clegg’s leadership. Brexit is the gift that can only keep giving if only we have the courage to receive it gratefully and act accordingly.

  • Peter Martin 8th Aug '23 - 8:52am

    @ Peter Hirst,

    The Rejoin EU party is doing what you suggest and is attempting “to lead from the front”.

    It’s not going too well.

    They only managed 105 votes and finished well behind other notable candidates such as Count Binface with his 190 votes.

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