Since Theresa May’s coronation in July, her main task has been to deal with Brexit, which she has been less than transparent about. These months have been filled with fear and anxiety for those of us who voted remain or regret our vote to leave. For most, the last shred of hope has been the idea that we would remain in the single market despite leaving the European Union. In the last few weeks, this hope has been savagely ripped away from us.
Yes, May has officially stated that when we leave the European Union, we will also be leaving the single market. The single market requires all members to allow freedom of movement for workers, meaning that Britain will finally “take back control” and reduce immigration numbers. Essentially, leaving the single market will allow May to fulfil the wildest and most popular promises of the leave campaigns – to reduce the number of people coming into the United Kingdom – as we would no longer be required to allow people within other single market countries to enter the country without visas.
To believe the increased cost of bread will be harboured by the retailer, or the manufacturer, is naïve to anyone who understands the basis of capitalism.
Then, surely, this is fantastic news? Well, the single market also allows for free movement of goods and trade, meaning a lack of tariffs when single market members trade with each other. Considering 44 per cent of our exports and 53 per cent of our imports come from the EU, whether or not this trade has tariffs placed upon it is crucial to the wellbeing of the British economy. Upon leaving the single market, there is no doubt whatsoever that tariffs will be placed on British trade. If the EU were not to do this, they would be encouraging others to also leave the single market, demonstrating that it is possible to receive what is seen to be the more beneficial parts of the agreement without allowing the less attractive parts.
Once trade is tariffed, it will take a minimal amount of time for everyday Britons to feel the pinch. Despite all of the food you may see in the supermarket that claims to be ‘British-grown’ and the like, Britain continues to import a quarter of its food from the EU alone. To believe the increased cost of bread will be harboured by the retailer, or the manufacturer, is naïve to anyone who understands the basis of capitalism. The extra pennies will come out of yours and my wallets, not out of Tesco or Warburton’s.
But have no fear! Theresa May has made clear that, despite leaving the single market, she would still like Britain to have free trade with the EU! May essentially wants to claim the free coffee you get when you fill your loyalty card without actually having to get any stamps in the first place. She refuses to pay the price of freedom of movement but demands the benefits of freedom of trade. There is literally zero chance of the EU granting her these demands. The EU has to take a hard line with Britain in order to discourage the rest of the union from having Brexits (or Frexits, Spexits, Grexits, etc.) of their own. They cannot send the message that it is possible to close your borders and remain prosperous because if this was seen to be true, quite frankly, everybody would do it. It will be Europe’s mission for the rest of time to ensure Britain’s economic demise.
To soften this blow, May announced that Parliament will have to agree to the final deal with the EU, although May signs off on it. The result of this is rather unpredictable, seeing as so many MPs seemed to be for remain, but both parties’ official stances are that Brexit has to happen so as to be democratic. Labour seems bent on securing a Brexit that “works for the people”. The feasibility of this goal seems slim given that Theresa May has openly stated her plan to reduce taxes so as to attract businesses in similar ways to places such as Panama and Switzerland. There is a chance, then, that a proposed deal could remain in Parliament for quite some time before any majority agrees on it.
The key thing that so many people are either missing or ignoring is that, when we leave the single market in order to “take back control” and reduce immigration into the UK, the greatest loss will not be that of free trade, but that of immigration into the UK. Despite what you may read in the Daily Mail or The Sun about immigrants coming to Britain and taking our jobs and claiming unemployment benefit (somehow simultaneously, how impressive!), immigration is what keeps any modern economy alive.
The NHS, for example, relies heavily on immigration: 11 per cent of all staff and 26 per cent of doctors are non-British.
The NHS, for example, relies heavily on immigration: 11 per cent of all staff and 26 per cent of doctors are non-British. At a time when the NHS has been deemed a humanitarian disaster by the Red Cross, many would deem it unnecessary to restrict the ability for talented individuals to join the vital organisation. “But we’ll have a points system! Like Australia!” No, we won’t. The people demanding immigration overhaul that voted leave are the people May is now angling her policies towards. These aren’t the people who would look at a points system and see it as suffice. They won’t be happy until immigration numbers are at zero. But this would be unrealistic. May simply cannot achieve this and, if she wanted to, why would she not have eradicated immigration from outside of the EU? About half of the immigration to Britain is from EU countries, meaning that leaving the single market would only grant May power to reduce half of the immigration at present.
If leaving the single market will lead to increased cost of living due to added tariffs on European imports, and most likely won’t do too much to reduce immigration, then why has May bothered to announce our departure? Appeasement. May knows that neither the 52 per cent of the country that voted leave, nor the members of her own party who supported the same campaign would be satisfied with remaining in the single market. These people see the single market as another shackle of the European Union and, despite the benefits the single market provides us with, it is a shackle nonetheless. May and her government have now officially chosen a side, the side of the 52 per cent, the side of the delusional and stubborn, the side that would watch the British economy collapse as long as Josef from the corner shop “goes back to where he came from” (Josef was probably born in the local hospital and has lived in the area his entire life but, as we all know, facts are so 2015).