Six years ago today, I voted for Brexit – will I do the same thing again?

Six years ago I made a terrible, terrible mistake. I voted leave. I thought Brexit would work, or at least work and create the conditions for a more competitive economy, and therefore a more prosperous one.

I was watching Euro 2016 and took inspiration from him. Each team had a different strategy. They competed in a variety of systems, adapting the strategy to their own set of players’ unique strengths and weaknesses. His team’s managers made their own decisions and were dismissed if found wrong.

In other words, voters, or their representatives in parliament, were able to “sack the manager”, to try to gain a competitive advantage over the economy, when we were judged to lose and fall behind other countries. Within the EU there was not enough freedom to adjust policies and democratic accountability.

Here’s what I wrote at the time, before the vote, and I think a lot of people clearly felt the same way. I think I am free to quote myself in detail, and partly as a fair defense for the misguided and falsified action: “In Britain, this used to be the case in the earlier stages of our times. In the EU. Since 1945, we have rationing, Tory dirigisme, Wilsonian planning, heath corporatism, some spells of social democracy, a long experiment with Thatcherism, and what followed (which I think is managerialism) with a socialist command economy.

“Sooner or later, each of these approaches ran out of steam; And the policy break was executed by an electorate who wanted a new leadership and a new perspective. So he dismissed the government in the general election. In other words, voters, or their representatives in parliament, were able to ‘sack the manager’, to attempt to gain a competitive advantage over the economy, when we were judged to lose and fall behind other countries.

“As things stand now, the UK has not been able to take radical steps to the left or to the right to change economic policy, if it wants to. Yes, we have general elections and some liberties on tax rates etc.; but The general trend in Europe is toward continued cohesion and limits on national freedom of action.”

I can see where I was coming from, because the EU had and still has serious flaws; But it was a bad analogy. This is because the Euro Football Championship should have general rules and standards (for example, 11 players on the pitch at any one time, and the annoying offside rule) and that’s fine if you don’t want to play by those rules, but You can’t enter the European Football Championship. Instead play with other countries. Or myself, so to speak. You can build the coolest football system in the world, but it won’t be of any use to you if other countries don’t want to let you compete.

In other words, people like me understood how difficult life would be outside the EU, and underestimated the degree of freedom we had in terms of access to important European markets as well as rapidly growing economies around the world. Is. To borrow a phrase that later became infamous, I thought we could have our cake and eat it – keep everything we love about EU membership, and leave out the bits that We didn’t want to. (After all, every time an EU state voted no to some new EU treaty, a quick renegotiation took place, settling better terms.)

In fact, it became clear during the post-referendum negotiations that it was not in the EU’s interest to offer the UK the deal we had dreamed of because we needed the EU more than we needed – even if the German car The makers have done a lot for money here.

To use a football analogy, they would have loved to play England (apologies to the rest of the UK), but they could have run a tournament perfectly fine without them. England cannot play European football without agreeing on certain rules; And in the end, could not accept them. At that point, in 2018 and 2019, the only sensible, fair, and democratic thing to do would have been to secure whatever terms of Brexit we could, and then get people to vote to approve them – have the final say. The referendum for which The Independent campaigned.

I had underestimated the pain the economy would go through – though not that there would be any impact on GDP. The exchange rate is, as I thought, taking a lot of adjustment pressure, and with it inflation, but the process will take longer than I expected, if it ever takes place.

Trade deals with other countries that we thought were waiting to be signed have proved elusive. Under the presidents of both sides, the failure to agree either one with the US has been the most disappointing. The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether a US president is an Anglophile or not; Congress controls trade policy, and much of America’s political leadership reflects the population’s general preference for protectionism and skepticism of free trade. This was summed up in the slogan “America First” and a comment Donald Trump once made carefully while drafting a speech on economics: “Business is bad”.

Also, for a different kind of frustrating reason, linking the UK to China, Russia and Brazil doesn’t look like such a good idea anymore. Japan and India are about the only major economic powers we can trade with, as well as the Gulf states and Australia, and the European Union to make up for the loss of export markets, broken pan-European supply chains and above all Not enough. Lack of labor and cost inflation after Brexit. Not to mention the Horizon project and defense and security cooperation.

I think I was right about general British hostility to Europeans “telling us what to do” and “free movement” migration, factors that probably made Brexit inevitable. Yet the second wrong decision I made about Brexit was how prepared the British were (and still are) to take the revolutionary measures needed to turn the economy around. This was especially silly because in 2016 it was quite clear that the Brexity mood was one of the high-water marks of blind, buoyant enthusiasm, senseless Johnsonian optimism.

Half of the population who voted was not fair enough in 2016 or later; But most of the other half of the population, who voted Leave, and with it the result of the radical change, were either unprepared for a shake-up, or even not expecting one. Brexit has always meant some difficulty if the long-term gains were to win. The atmosphere was the opposite. It was about butterflies emerging from Chrysalis, Independence Day and Prometheus Unbound. Well, as we see, we got a shock.

I also took the lazy view in 2016 that the question of Northern Ireland was tinged with goodwill and, as Boris Johnson thought, wagging a dog’s tail was ridiculous, and that if it was in the interest of the whole of Britain to leave it Not to be stopped by the relatively small population of the province. Big error.

In fact, apart from being incompatible with Brexit’s Belfast Good Friday Agreement, the new pseudo-federal UK that had emerged by 2016, effectively meant that Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England should have had an effective veto. , because trying to leave was calling for trouble as far as the Union was concerned, without the consent of the majority in all four parts of Britain. So it proved that, since both Scotland and Northern Ireland did not vote, and of course Wales and England only voted by relatively minor margins, voting remained in London and other cities.

Launching a massive and difficult national project like Brexit required a little more popular consent than in 2016, and it is now more angered than ever, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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The most important thing that I got right is that the UK has to compete in the world (and Europe too) and it cannot escape the ever-evolving competition by hiding behind tariff barriers and the inevitable toughness by throwing subsidies around. options can be avoided. Brexit was only supposed to serve as a project to secure a long-term global economic existence that would be understood and supported by the vast majority of the population. “Brexit opportunities” aren’t just waiting for Jacob Rees-Mogg to take them and bring them to life to pass a law, such as allowing the sale of more powerful vacuum cleaners. This is the baby version of Brexit.

The opportunities for Brexit are about sacrifices to make Britain globally competitive and able to overcome tariffs and other protectionist barriers. It is about reducing costs and reducing consumption in order to promote productive investment of the private sector. It is about turning the goods and services consumed at home towards exports. This would mean poor public services, at least in the short term. This means more migration, from everywhere. It’s not about subsidizing petrol prices or exempting home ownership from “fair wages” or capital gains tax.

A radically different economic model is the only way Brexit works, and it is not the Brexit that the British voted for. The British believed in Boris Johnson and thought they could have their cake and eat it. The deal we had in the EU was not perfect, but it was better than we realized.

I’m sorry to say that, with rare exceptions, no one who voted on leave in 2016 understood exactly what would be needed to make it a success. I am included. I’m sorry.