10 Brexit consequences people weren’t told about in 2016

by David Harrison | 17.07.2019

The 2016 referendum may have dominated public discourse for months, but it was conspicuously silent on many key Brexit issues. Here is a list of ten points that no voters, or certainly very few, were aware of when they were asked Leave or Remain.

1. The bizarre idea we might leave the EU with no deal at all

According to the official booklet sent by the government to all households in 2016, it could take “10 years or more” for the UK to unpick and renegotiate new arrangements with the EU. Likewise, the manifesto on which the present government was elected in 2017 insisted the aim was to “secure a smooth, orderly Brexit”. It’s hard to see any mandate for a no-deal Brexit, either from the referendum or the subsequent election.

2. Losing our EU citizenship rights

HMG’s booklet said that through the EU people have the right to live, work or study abroad, but neglected to mention that every UK national – every man, woman and child – was at risk of losing their fundamental right of EU citizenship, with its democratic, political and economic privileges on top of national citizenship, whether they like it or not, without appeal and without any due process.

3. Losing permanent safeguards for workers

The government said EU membership “guarantees many employment rights”. But it did not explain the details of how EU law provides permanent safeguards in the UK courts for workers and trade unions against discrimination, for the protection of pregnant, part-time, fixed-term, agency and night-time workers, rights to rest and paid annual leave, and a host of other defences for workers when firms make redundancies, transfer staff or become insolvent; any of which could and would be removed by a UK government bent on deregulating the economy. No wonder the biggest trade unions in the UK, who understand the implications for their own members, have now said they want a public vote.

4. Loss of EU regional funding

No mention was made of the enormous loss of funding to the UK from the European Investment Bank. As the first report in May this year of the UK2070 Commission has pointed out, the UK’s dismal record on regional inequality has been due to far too little investment expenditure compared to other advanced countries, plus poor and erratic domestic policies. Only EU regional funds and the EIB have exhibited coherence and longevity in recent decades, with the EIB investing £108 billion in the UK since 1973. That unique source of long-term investment finance and strategy, vital to combat inequality, will nonetheless be cut off, without anyone comprehending what was at stake.

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5. Risk to peace in Northern Ireland 

The fact that the Good Friday Agreement was predicated on both the UK and Ireland being EU members didn’t get a look in.

6. Pulling out of a historic mutual defence commitment with other European democracies

The UK itself originated this relationship as the Western European Union in 1948 and it has since become part of the EU. Advantage Moscow!

7. Euratom

This was a virtually unknown treaty which, it turns out, is crucial to the transportation of nuclear fuel for power stations and isotopes for life-saving medical use in the UK. Who knew it would be linked to our EU withdrawal?

8. Uncertain future for farmers

The government booklet was silent in 2016 about the implications for British agriculture, which now has complete uncertainty over the markets, support regimes and tariffs it faces in future.

9. Divisions between the nations of the UK

Was there one word about what might happen if different nations of the UK voted for different outcomes? How will those differences be reconciled, in any form of Brexit?

10. What Brexit actually means

No one was told what the actual alternative to EU membership should be. Membership of a customs union? Membership of the EEA? A free trade agreement? Nothing at all? A complete mystery, with the absence of any alternative in the referendum bedevilling UK policy ever since.

In 1992, when France ratified the Maastricht Treaty by referendum, a copy of the entire treaty was sent to every household, so everyone knew exactly what they were voting on. We, in the UK, had in 2016 a 16 page glossy booklet with pictures, flimsy of content and empty of answers, on which to base an even bigger decision. The Leave campaign did little to flesh out the overlooked points.

Brexiters like to talk about the referendum as being “the largest democratic exercise in British history”. But democracy entails understanding what you’re voting for. Otherwise it is an empty exercise.

To paraphrase Churchill, never in the history of British politics has so much been taken away from so many with so little explanation.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

15 Responses to “10 Brexit consequences people weren’t told about in 2016”

  • I’m astounded at level of inaccuracies in this sharticle
    1. The bizarre idea we might leave the EU with no deal at all
    No, it is bizarre that we do a deal before we leave.
    2. Losing our EU citizenship rights
    Of course we lose EU citizenship rights, we don’t want them.
    3. Losing permanent safeguards for workers
    What a complete nonsense, tell me how we lose them?
    4. Loss of EU regional funding
    What a stupid comment, it’s not EU funding, it’s UK money
    5. Risk to peace in Northern Ireland
    Complete rubbish, nowhere in the GFA is the EU or membership mentioned
    6. Pulling out of a historic mutual defence commitment with other European democracies
    Again, rubbish, we have such mutual defense commitment in NATO
    7. Euratom
    Leaving the EU will have ZERO effect, stop peddling lies.
    8. Uncertain future for farmers
    The only uncertainty for farmers is remain lies, we need to stop paying
    farmers not to produce.
    9. Divisions between the nations of the UK
    There has always been divisions, we are the UK and act as one.
    10. What Brexit actually means
    We know what Brexit means, we know, also, a lot of the bizzare future that
    the EU holds.
    Some people may be swayed by this sort of distortion of reality, but it is mostly you mindless sheep.

  • We must always be a strong …EUROPE …..Our European Country. It is so amazing to go/study/live/marry/ strong military/medical/fight for climate change together/animal well-fair/ do business freely all over Europe….the list is long. ….wake up UK…..it is our home!
    The whole of UK must remain…….we must not become ‘the little puppet’ of the USA’
    God bless. EUROPE. Help us to remain. Help us to be a strong European Country for all of us……without borders’.

  • Brilliant analysis by Mr Harrison. There was also a total absence of any explanation as to why the EU existed at all, what its origins and objectives were, its role in creating a common shared space in Europe for the mutual benefit of all the participating nations, to be compared to the horrifying tale of the previous hundreds of years of European history and its millions of dead.

  • Yes, all these things were mentioned as risks but all were dismissed with a wave of the “project fear” hand. Just reading the list makes me more incandescent with rage than I was on June 24th 2016

  • Given the rather emotional drive toward Brexit among that small majority who appear to favour it, I sincerely wonder whether any notice of the kind of information given in this article would have been taken on board. The financial people who advocate Brexit do it for reasons of getting rid of rules & regulations in order to bring in dodgy money; most of the non-money people talk in terms of freedom from foreign interference, glory, historical British commercial prowess and simply showing the world who’s boss. Who really thinks that sensible, rational arguments are effective against that sort of cynicism and infantility?

  • Additional consequences that were not in any way addressed in the approach to BREXIT include:-

    1. Exclusion from the Erasmus programmes of scientific research and collaboration.

    2. Loss of the European Medicines Agency – with the consequence that the UK will likely have to set up its own system of regulating and authorising pharmaceuticals, medical devices and procedures.

    3. Loss of the designation for UK laboratories appointed AND PART EU FUNDED as authorised EU reference laboratories for many disease of agricultural importance (e.g. The Pirbright Laboratory and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

    4. The flight of manufacturing, particularly by Japanese and USA car manufacturers, from the UK

    5. The loss of parts of the financial sector to EU competitors.

    Your work is of vital importance – please keep on keeping on.

    Best wishes,

    Dr A J M Garland.

  • For months now the more frequent correspondents on this website have underlined the lack of understanding and knowledge about the EU among the population at large. The vacuum was filled by the other side who poisoned the debate with lies, hatred and deceit. Just this afternoon I had an email from Ann Widdecombe in response to a letter I wrote to her protesting about the Brexit Party’s behaviour in the EU Parliament and her speech in particular. She told me that the EU was a federal superstate and the British people turned its back on it in 2016. The Brexit Party MEPs turning their backs on the European anthem was ‘dignified’ and justified, she claimed.
    Our side has failed, so far, to articulate a narrative supported by evidence (as in this article by David Harrison) which destroys the sort of falsehoods pedalled by Widdecombe and Farage. We have to do better.

  • Excellent article, highlighting how appalling it is that so little of this has found its way into the debate. Under Point 2 especially, the enormity of robbing British people of fundamental citizenship rights to travel, work, study, reside in any EU state has hardly featured – even now, how many people are even aware of what is being done to them and their descendants? All the debate has been on our rights to secure our borders rather than on our rights to cross the borders of our closest neighbours without let or hindrance.

  • Even now, with impending doom on our doorstep there are plenty who still parrot ‘at last, we will have our freedom back’. Fomage and Ann Whydidntyacum are both still championing the exit cause; unbelievable. Of course they are shouting from their 100,000+ per year seats in the EP with no responsibility to do anything except laugh and cackle and pound on their desks.

    They are treated respectfully as human beings yet they behave like children in an unsupervised playroom.

  • Thought I would have a read just to get some balance for my own position. Thanks Trevor Churchill for saving me the trouble of typing all those answers.

    This is all ‘project fear’ and ‘project negativity’ same old same old.

    The fact is the EU is a corrupt gravy train badly run and wasteful. Tell me about green credentials moving the parliament backwards and forwards all the time.

    People do trade and make it happen we don’t need more red tape bureaucracy and hangers-on putting their fingers in the pie. As a nation we need to look to the rest of the world and do trade and activities with all.

    We don’t need any more childish blimps we need grown-up vision ideas and the great British spirit

  • Going through the article and through the comments it is clear that those who favoured to remain within the EU made their case badly. And for a long time appeared too busy to do so from their own particular political point of view rather than, as the leave extremists did, team up and make a coherent remain case with well-funded media articles and programmes. The fact that even now the Labour party, that on shaky grounds voted with the Conservatives to leave the EU, still isn’t trusted about where it stands on the subject is a sad reminder of this bodged remain drive. In any case, too many people were OK with the idea of leaving the EU without questioning the potential damage to the UK, happy to believe the words of people they could have known should not be believed. Whatever way one looks at it, it was populist misuse that democracy UK style provided them with, but what happened nevertheless comes under the heading of democracy. As, now that the potential economical damage turns into project fear coming true, does the continuing reluctance to finally speak out clearly whether Brexit is wanted or not. And get fantasising Brexit mavericks like Corbyn, Gove, Davies, Redwood, Farage and Johnson come to heel or lose their jobs. Sad, very sad!