It is just over 50 years since the UK joined the European Union (EU) and three years since it left, on 31 January 2020, although the transition period lasted until the end of 2020.
So what are some of the key effects of leaving? What do voters think about Brexit now and what has Sussex Bylines (SBL) had to say about it?
Counting the cost
On the third anniversary of the withdrawal, the International Monetary Fund predicted that the UK economy would contract in 2023 and perform worse than other advanced economies, including Russia. This follows an Economic and Research Institute report that trade from the UK to the EU was 16 per cent lower than expected had Brexit not happened.
Recent data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that Brexit is costing the UK around £173m a week or just over £1m per hour, and around 330,000 workers have been lost from the economy. So much for the always incorrect claim that we would take back control of £350m per week.
In the midst of financial turmoil, the cost of living crisis and damages to business and trade, it is perhaps not surprising that recent polls have shown a marked decline in support for Brexit. The most recent YouGov poll found that 56 per cent of the British public think it was wrong to leave the EU (52% a year ago), with only 32 per cent now saying it was right to leave.
European researchers argue that the changing attitudes are due to demographic changes, with 62 per cent of those born after 1998 (who were too young to vote in the referendum) saying Brexit was a mistake. But Prof John Curtice, who has followed this swing in public opinion very closely, argues that the biggest change has been among leave voters, 16 per cent of whom now think Britain would be better off in the EU.
Sussex Bylines and Brexit
Sussex Bylines grew out of local pro-EU groups and, from its earliest publications in July 2020, has regularly published articles about Brexit and its effects. Just a few of these are highlighted below.
As far back as 2020, Caroline Brown was concerned about UK citizens’ civil rights, presaging the dangerous Bill of Rights that is currently going through Parliament:
One of SBL’s most recent articles by Dorothy Smith highlights the prospective damage that the cumbersomely named Retained EU law Bill would do to workers’ and environmental rights. Two years ago, Mike Coyne was predicting the same:
Both Mike and Dorothy worked in Brussels for many years and are highly knowledgeable about the issues from first-hand experience.
Fishing, farming and food
We have also covered the impact on farming, including an early article by SBL’s first editor, Robert Ellson…
…as well as food standards, following an interview with University of Sussex food specialist, Professor Erik Millstone:
EU citizens’ rights
We have published a number of articles about the precarious situation for EU citizens in the UK, including most recently by John Searby and Chris Keppie from the charity Settled. This shows that little has improved for EU citizens since Marianna Ebel wrote about it in 2021:
Chris Stratton also wrote about the uncertain future for UK citizens living and working in Europe:
Uncertain futures: keeping the flame alive
Coverage by SBL of Labour’s policies on the EU had a big readership, with articles both for Starmer’s approach – Nick Tyrone’s – and against, by Colin Gordon of Grassroots for Europe:
Other writers, such as Tamsin Shasha, have written about how to keep the European flame alive, through artistic activities such as the Festival of Europe:
Hilary Lawson, with other writers, recently described the positive impact of the National Rejoin march in October 2022, showing how strong the opposition to Brexit still is:
And regular writer Tom Serpell explained why going it alone won’t work:
The one certainty is that Sussex Bylines will continue to cover Brexit, whatever the outcome.