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It's been four years since the Brexit vote: everything and nothing has changed

3 237 348
23.06.2020

On this day in 2016, 72% of the UK’s electorate headed to the polls in the EU referendum. Four years on, one can hardly fail to be struck by the subsequent transformation of politics. Yet the consequences in terms of substantive policy have been significantly more limited. Brexit, to date, has changed everything and nothing.

Let’s start with the most obvious point. The UK’s relationship with the EU will be, and indeed has already been, profoundly altered as a result of the referendum. For all the doubts as to whether the result of the referendum would be honoured or not, it has been. Britain’s membership ended on 31 January. And the rupture promises to be far more severe than many observers expected at the time.

Yet the Brexiters were wrong to claim that leaving would be easy. Of course, the difficulties sprang partly from failures of political leadership and a parliament too divided to make up its own mind. Yet the National Audit Office claimed that by March 2020 there were roughly 27,500 civil servants working on Brexit. That even the British civil service, long feted as perhaps the most effective administration inside the EU, should have struggled with the task is telling.

While leaving has proven harder than leavers were willing to admit, the process has underlined the validity of the longstanding Eurosceptic claim that the EU, as Douglas Hurd once put it, had inveigled its way into the nooks and crannies of national life. And like an invasive creeper, its removal is causing damage. In both Northern Ireland and Scotland, Brexit is undermining devolution settlements that were designed with EU membership in mind.

Shifts in the constitutional status quo may be occurring........

© The Guardian


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