Brexit = Groundhog Day

by Hugo Dixon | 13.11.2019

Day after day, year after year, we’ll wake up to news about Brexit. 

The radio will be droning on about the Prime Minister’s trade talks with the EU entering their third, fourth or fifth year – with no conclusion in sight. Is he going to die in a ditch or ask, yet again, for extra time?

The airwaves will be full of squabbles inside the ruling Conservative Party about whether to follow EU rules – without a vote on them – in return for a deal. There’ll be yet more news about companies cutting back their investment because of the endless uncertainty.

The TV will be blaring out how Nicola Sturgeon is demanding another independence referendum for Scotland – and Boris Johnson again refusing. And about how unionists in Northern Ireland are furious because checks in the Irish Sea are cutting it off from Great Britain.

And nobody will be fixing the problems at home. Day after day, we’ll wake up to the crisis in the NHS. To young people being knifed in the street. Old people not being cared for. People sleeping rough because they don’t have homes. 

And all because we won’t have the money to fix our problems. Forget all those grand promises of the 2019 election campaign. Our economy will be much smaller than it would otherwise be. And our politicians will be so obsessed with Brexit that they can’t focus on anything else.

Johnson had been expected to say in a speech today that only a Tory majority can end the “groundhoggery” of Brexit. How wrong. It’s his Brexit that will lead to Groundhog Day.

He was going to say that, if he fails to win the election, there will be “more political self-obsession and onanism”. Wrong again. It’s his Brexit that has become an obsession, trapping us in an unproductive cycle – creating nothing new or valuable. 

All the Prime Minister has agreed is a “withdrawal agreement”. That gives us a stay of execution, during which we can keep full access to the EU’s market, until the end of next year. But it will take many more years to nail down a trade deal. Canada’s agreement with the EU took seven.

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    Next year the focus of the news will be about whether Johnson will go back on his promise to Nigel Farage not to ask the EU for extra time. Either way, it’ll be Groundhog day. If he eats his words, we’ll have to give the EU extra billions without a say on how it’s spent. If he keeps his promise, we’ll crash out without a deal. 

    But that won’t end the news. Day after day, the economic misery will pile up and the radio will bang on about whether the Prime Minister will go back into trade talks with his tail between his legs – and if he does, whether he’ll agree the conditions that the EU will then be in a position to dictate.

    The only way to stop Groundhog Day is to defeat Johnson in the coming election. Then hold a referendum, win it and cancel Brexit. 

    Imagine it. You wake up and the radio isn’t talking about Brexit any more. It was all a terrible dream. We can get back to fixing the country’s real problems.

    Let’s fix it, not Brexit.

    This article was updated after Johnson decided not to talk about “groundhoggery” or “onanism”. He blamed the original briefing to the press on a “stray draft” of the speech released to the media.

    Edited by Quentin Peel