I am not one who believes that holding the Brexit referendum was in itself a mistake. But the Government's subsequent analysis of the policy choices, and its handling of the negotiations, appears to have been both incompetent and disastrous.
‘Leave’ voters appear to have had many different reasons for voting the way they did.
- Some felt that the choice was between leaving and going on an inexorable, unstoppable journey to a European State, with the slow expiry of National Governments and, eventually, direct rule from Brussels.
- Others felt there was a democratic deficit. (The late Nicholas Ridley felt that the modern version of the Jarrow Marchers should not have to bypass Parliament in London and lobby in Brussels, as many groups now do.)
- And then there were worries about immigration, from Eastern Europe in particular.
However, once voters had ordained that the UK was to leave the EU, there should have been extensive consultation and debate about the best way to do so, not least because of the issue of the Irish/Northern Irish border, and because most pro-Brexit politicians had previously said that the UK would be crazy to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. But successive Prime Ministers decided otherwise.
Here are some speeches etc. that document the background to Brexit and the consequences of the Government’s approach:-
- 2017 - Ivan Rogers' analysis of David Cameron's decision making before the Brexit referendum. (See also Note below.)
- 2018 - UCL European Institute - The EU's approach to the Brexit negotiations.
- 2018 - Martin Donnelly's analysis of the economic implications of Brexit
- 2018 - Ivan Rogers' analysis of the UK's post-Brexit options
- 2018 - Ivan Rogers - Brexit as Revolution
- 2018 - Richard Barfield - UK Trade and the World Trade Organisation
- 2018 - Ivan Rogers - The Brexit Process/Negotiation: Nine Lessons
- 2019 - Ivan Rogers - Commentary on the Brexit Discussions
- 2019 - The UK in a Changing Europe - Article 50 Two Years On
- 2019 – Ivan Rogers – No Deal is Now the Most likely Outcome
- 2019 – Ivan Rogers – The Ghost of Christmas yet to come
Here are three blogs written on or around Brexit Day - 31 January 2020.
- Robert Saunders – Brexit in Historical Perspective
- Chris Grey – The Brexit Blog – A Day to Mourn
- Philip Rycroft – Brexit Done? – We’ve Barely Started
- 2020 06 - David Frost - The Government's Plans for a UK-EU Trade Deal
- 2020 07 - Chris Grey - The Brexit Blog - Brexit gets more real, Brexiters get more unrealistic
- 2020 10 - Chris Grey - The Brexit Blog - An Air of Unreality
- 2020 10 - Matt Ross - Construction or Demolition? - Explaining Boris's New Brexit Battle
- 2020 11 - Claire Fox - Interview with UK in a Changing Europe
- 2021 03 - Michel Barnier - Valedictory speech at the 'Churchill Europe Symposium'
Most of the above documents were written by those (like me) who were worried about the way in which the UK government – and to a lesser extent EU governments and the Commission – were approaching the Brexit negotiations. The key exceptions are David Frost's 2020 speech and the post-Brexit interview with Claire Fox. I would be delighted to hear of any other analyses published by those who thought that the UK’s negotiating strategy was sound.
Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Theresa May's government, gave a long, fascinating and very revealing interview in November 2020. You can read it here.
Ex-No. 10 Policy Unit Daniel Korski tweeted his agreement with much of what Mr Rogers said in his first (2017) speech but added the following relatively minor corrections to the detail:
- The Policy Unit did push more radical ideas for Parliamentary sovereignty but were shot down by UKRep - in the form of one Ivan Rogers!
- The Policy Unit also obsessed about ECJ powers etc. but again were shot down by FCO and Sir Ivan Rogers.
- Sir Ivan's timings of the Carswell and Reckless resignations were wrong.
- The UK did secure the EU budget reductions which Sir Ivan thought unnegotiable.
- The British public mainly favoured the Single Market even if they didn't know what it meant, but then No.10 responded ineffectively to Eurosceptic criticisms of it.
- On page 21, the Open Europe paper preceded Mats Persson's appointment, and getting changes into secondary legislation did happen and flew with the EU27 in the way the UK wanted.