One of the most unexpected consequences of the whole Brexit hoo-hah has to be the dishonesty.
For every £350million a week to the NHS on one side, we had instant recession and job losses on the other. Both sides were apparently ‘creative’ about their campaign expenses, the Remain side being more ‘creative’, despite having the backing of a government leaflet.
But this is not the dishonesty I am writing about.
It is the dishonesty equally exhibited by both sides who try to convince the public that Brexit will be done and dusted in a few years, perhaps a decade at the most.
This is simply untrue.
It took 12 years from the Cabinet’s commitment in 1961 to accede to the Treaty of Rome for the UK to enter what was then the EEC. There were two changes of government in between.
Most of the delay was due to a French veto, or specifically Charles de Gaulle’s veto. That’s gratitude for you after we liberated his country in 1944, but it does demonstrate the ruthlessness of international politics and the realities of power. The UK entered the EEC over de Gaulle’s dead body.
But that was not the end. Our terms of membership were renegotiated under Harold Wilson’s minority government and then put to the people in a referendum in 1975. That is some five general elections after the 1961 decision.
This was during one of those rare periods of Labour support for Britain’s membership of the EEC prior to the party’s Damascene conversion in the late 1980s.
Labour’s recent confused state is due to its needing a new Europe policy for the first time in 30 years while also being run by people with an ingrained Euroscepticism based on their closeted communism and Russophilia.
The most permanent settlement of the UK’s membership with the EEC took place in 1984 when Margaret Thatcher demanded and got a rebate of some of the money we sent to be spent by unelected Brussels bureaucrats.
This was some 23 years after the government first made known its intention to join the EEC. There had been six changes of Prime Minister in the intervening period.
For some reason, neither side in this debate is willing to admit that Brexit might take more than a decade, or even two, to finalise. They want us to believe that Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May will still be party leaders when we finally leave the EU’s orbit.
They won’t be.
Politics has intruded on what is actually a technocratic exercise of disengagement from the treaties and agreements. There is also the problem that the British technocrats, our civil service, have almost completely gone EU-native.
The worst part of the wrangling over our withdrawal from the EU is how every twist and turn is leapt upon by the Remainers as a justification for reversing Brexit. The fact that transition will take much longer than we were led to believe is an example of this. Political capital is being fraudulently raised based on a hidden inevitability.
The stark truth is being kept from us by both sides. This might be to prevent a massive loss of confidence in mainstream politicians as a whole, which could lead to a resurgence in UKIP that would affect both major parties. If either party falters on implementing the referendum result, only UKIP or a Eurosceptic successor party could benefit.
Transition will take decades. It might be at an end in 2040. This needs to be acknowledged by all parties.
Politicians and populations are unable to think that far into the future, so we pretend it could be over before the scheduled 2022 general election. It won’t be.
The next election will be fought over Britain’s exit from the EU. There are those who genuinely believe that Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry will be able to do a better job over Brexit than Theresa May, Sajid Javid, Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson. Whatever wavering voters think of Mrs May’s ministry, she and her team certainly have considerably more talent and ability than the alternative to get the job done, and done well.
There will be numerous negotiations and revised agreements. Britain will not regain sovereignty lost to the EU in a meaningful fashion for a long time. But it is the direction of travel, not how long it takes, that is important. That direction was established on June 24, 2016. While there will be swerves on the way there, we will arrive at our destination.
Politicians and commentators should come clean and state the true duration of the journey. This will put all the arrangements into perspective.
We will officially leave the EU in 2019. But the person who will be Prime Minister when the final settlement is made is probably at this moment in a university somewhere, or settling into his or her first job, and right now might not even be a member of any political party.