Toby Neal: Are you missing our EU ‘friends and partners’?

Name one benefit of Brexit.

Anti-Brexit campaigners wave Union and European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament, London, in 2019. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Anti-Brexit campaigners wave Union and European Union flags outside the Houses of Parliament, London, in 2019. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Well, go on then.

It is a challenge you see repeatedly if you have a look at one of those “have your say” sites on the internet discussing any aspect of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

They are grimly fascinating sites to visit. They are the territory of diehard Remainers, and to delve in is like being in a jungle inhabited by warriors who are fighting on long after the war has been lost, either unaware or unwilling to accept the outcome.

Everything is going wrong, they contend, and we are in the realms of Project Reality. They told us so, they chide.

It was striking during the Budget speech that I didn’t hear Rishi Sunak say anything at all about the impact of Brexit as he detailed the OBR forecasts. Does that mean there won’t be any impact? In fact, unless he mumbled it under his breath at some point, I didn’t hear him mention Brexit, or the equivalent Government term as it doesn’t like using the b-word, once.

He did speak of 700,000 jobs being lost due to the pandemic which by coincidence is exactly the same number of jobs that one study, from some boffins in Oxford I seem to remember, warned would be lost through Brexit.

One clear benefit of not throwing in our lot with the EU any more is that the UK has sidestepped the EU vaccination fiasco.

I think I have found another. It is that there’s less traffic on the M54 and M6 through our region. Probably. Bringing wonderful environmental benefits. Probably.

You see, apparently exporters in the Irish Republic previously sent their trucks through Irish ports and into Holyhead, using Britain as a short cut to get to mainland EU. However, it is now such a bureaucratic faff that they are sending their goods direct from Irish ports to EU ports, bypassing post-Brexit Britain altogether.

A green bonus of Brexit for Britain! Just think of all those pollution-causing environmentally-unfriendly Irish lorries now giving our roads a miss.

Oh, and another benefit of Brexit is that we now know what the EU really thought of Britain all along.

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London, in 2019. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire

British ministers continue to speak hopefully of “our friends and partners in Europe”, sounding in doing so like Perfect Peter in the Horrid Henry books. As an experiment I entered “our friends and partners in Europe” in a well known search engine and got 86,200 matches, and for “our friends and partners in the EU” there were 56,800.

Then I tried “our friends and partners in Britain.” Number of hits? Five.

For “our friends and partners in the UK” there were 23,600, although that’s misleading as hardly any of those were coming from EU people, and many were in entirely different contexts.

The inference is that, contrary to the stereotyping, they don’t like us as much as we say we like them.

The vaccination fiasco has seen the EU engaging in vaccine supra nationalism, trying to halt exports, and with some EU states pouring cold water on the British-developed vaccine, a move which will potentially lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths in Europe.

As for the Northern Ireland protocol, a charitable view is that Boris Johnson only agreed to it to get the overall trade deal over the line, and hoped things would turn out all right afterwards, which they haven’t.

He agreed to a situation in which the EU is insisting that the UK imposes a trade border between constituent parts of the UK, which if anybody had suggested it a few years ago they would have been thought daft.

There is a workable, pragmatic solution, and that is for the UK to ignore it. Say it hasn’t got the staff.

It will send the EU into a tizzy with thunderous declarations that it has to protect its single market.

But we all know how concerned the EU is for the future of Northern Ireland, so it will surely put the interests of the people there first and not let ideology and dogma get in the way of a reasonable solution.

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