Even Murdoch’s press is now waking up to the truth: Brexit was an act of self-harm | Michel Heseltine


MThe love of gardening is rooted in the thrill of renewal: the first snowdrop bulb, the first songbird to break the silence, that hot flash at the beginning of March. This week, as a veteran party member and supporter of every Tory leader from Churchill to Cameron, I detected something similar: the renewal of my party’s European heritage.

The disastrous consequences of Brexit for living standards, for our economic well-being and for Britain’s reputation abroad have so far been overshadowed by Covid, the war in Ukraine and the history that made headlines about our Prime Minister’s lack of sincerity and integrity. But this week the British press may have unwittingly exposed the real world emerging in the wake of Brexit.

While Guardian readers have been kept closely informed of the ongoing Brexit tragedy, it is only now that other parts of the British press have begun to consider the truth about his legacy. The economies of three of the regions that voted the most for Brexit were “smaller at the end of last year…than at the time of the vote”, wrote David Smith in the economics section of the Sunday Times this week. Despite a weak pound making British goods cheap for overseas buyers, “exporters are… struggling”, writes Jim Armitage in the same newspaper. “Last week’s first quarter figures showed food and drink exports to the EU were down 17%, or £614m, from pre-Covid levels. Exports to non-European countries rose by 10.7% to £223m, but not enough to offset the European decline.

Brexit was meant to be a ‘fresh start for the Conservative Party’, Jeremy Warner wrote this week in the Daily Telegraph, ‘but by making trade with Europe more difficult and more expensive it has so far only only aggravate the country’s difficulties”. In its coverage of recent OECD warnings, the Daily Mail reported that Britain’s economy “is set to stagnate next year – performing worse than any other G20 country except a crippled Russia. punishments”. Most of these countries have also felt the consequences of the war in Ukraine and the Covid epidemic – but not, of course, of Brexit.

It continues. Earlier this week, The Times reported on warnings from Cambridge University’s Vice-Chancellor that failure to agree terms to remain part of the EU’s biggest science funding scheme is “already hurting to researchers”. On the same day, the newspaper published an opinion piece by Iain Martin, a prominent Brexit supporter, who wrote: ‘As painful as this is, we need to talk about Brexit’. In the same article, there was an article on Brexit immigration rules to blame for “airport chaos”, and an opinion piece by Simon Nixon, who warned that “the outlook for the UK is getting worse. deteriorate”.

Not everyone who voted to stay agreed with me that the campaign to join the EU should start the day after the referendum. But in my opinion, democracy is a vehicle of choice. Successive governments reverse the mistakes of others. The bigger the error, the more urgent it is to go back. It may take time. Brexit took 43 years. Initially, this process started slowly. It accelerated and virulence with the acquisition of major newspapers by Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black, and with the replacement of David English, a convinced European, by Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. Over time, the public has been fed a diet of deception, culminating in the lies of the Brexit campaign itself.

Here we come to the heart of the matter. Brexit held clear promise. No border between Northern Ireland and the Republic; new trade agreements to replace the single market; a golden future with a rising standard of living. But a million Europeans have left our country and Brexit has had disastrous consequences for health services, social services and the economy.

Perhaps worst of all is the Government’s imminent publication of laws to break its word on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Trust is a trait of infinite value. It is the rock on which democracy rests. This government sees it as an optional extra to use when convenient and ignore when not. You hear this at every doorstep, read about it in every opinion poll. I heard two ladies talk about the Prime Minister: “I wouldn’t want him to marry my daughter. I wouldn’t want him to rent my house, I wouldn’t want him to manage my money. Brexit is at the heart of the deception that Britons feel so keenly. This is why the problem will not go away and should not go away.

I have always been skeptical of the approach to politics where so-called opinion-manipulators send ministers in like parrots to tell us what they would like us to believe. “We have to move on. Draw lines in the sand, shout. Keep working, squeak… squeak.”

This issue of trust is not going away. Everyone knows that the Prime Minister did lose the vote of confidence. More than 40% of his colleagues openly voted against him. Many more will have voted for him, not out of confidence, but for various reasons. When I opposed Margaret Thatcher, her majority evaporated within days as the true judgment of her colleagues was about to be tested for the second time.

Yet, as we have seen, and in some cases almost unwillingly, even the most Europhobic parts of our press are beginning to highlight the inevitable failures of Brexit and – perhaps inadvertently – to fertilize the green shoots of a return to the truth. indicative of politics, British values ​​and economic common sense.

I say to all those who have supported the European vision of Prime Ministers from Churchill to Cameron: the time has come to restore this vision of our country as a major European partner in one of the most powerful and influential organizations in the world. We owe it to future generations.


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