We're all in real trouble as a result of the referendum result. Although those on the receiving end of the newly-confident far right's abuse must qualify as the greatest victims of recent events, every single person in this country is significantly poorer as a result of the pound's substantial devaluation, and the authorities will now have to work very hard indeed to avoid a recession although, with many monetary policy options now exhausted, there’s every chance that this is simply out of the grasp, particularly if the government fails to undertake substantial and rapid stimulus measures.
In other words, things are progressing exactly as many Remain campaigners, and its leading economic thinkers in particular, predicted they would if 'out' won. We will have to see whether this extraordinary new economic crisis lingers, but to my mind the worst is still yet to come. Trade deals with major markets for UK business could be years if not decades away. The removal of the human rights and environmental protections that we won as a result of participation in the European project that were so derided by the isolationists during the campaign will have a profound effect on family life, workplace safety and the cleanliness and healthiness of our highstreets, beaches and rivers. ‘Project Fear’ was an effective way of undermining sombre minded but clearly thought through forecasts for a post-leave vote world, but it’s clear that those fears are being realised. The world is a terrifying place at the moment, but sadly it’s likely to get a lot scarier.
The Bank of England’s actions in both July and August seem to have helped prop up the economy, and so long as the terms on which a newly isolated UK re-establishes its relationship with our trading partners – if not the very possibility of Brexit itself – are so uncertain, then the markets seem to have found some hope that our future might not necessarily be entirely apocalyptic. But this is how skewed the terms of this debate have now become. Brexit should be considered a mistake if it fails to improve our economy, improve standards of living, alleviates poverty, liberates our industry or empowers our fishermen. It should be considered a success simply if it doesn’t lead to the wholescale destruction of our economy and everything that is precious to us. ‘It’s probably not going to be the end of the world,’ they tell us, pulling at their collars and shifting uneasily in their seats. Well, that’s ok then, I guess. Well done again, chaps.
But those of us within the pro-European movement need to be very careful about how we react to all this. The last thing any of us should do is to look in anyway like we're enjoying the feeling of being right. The fall of the pound, the dispatch of our anxious central bank’s last remaining bullets, the lack of confidence among both consumers and business, the reduction in investment by business, the prospect of EU funding to less affluent regions: these are not just abstractions or statistics. They are very real phenomena that will have devastating consequences for households across the country, and the poor in particular. Part of our role in making the case for Europe is pointing towards how we can mitigate the effects of what is happening and support communities across the country as jobs disappear, salaries drop and all the sociological affects that increases in poverty bring begin to kick in. This should include talking positively about all the work that the EU does to support less affluent communities and the tremendous benefits that membership has brought the UK economy.
It’s a sad fact that, not only will the ongoing effects that the result of the referendum be most harshly felt by the poor, but that many members of these communities will have voted ‘leave’. Any tone from pro-European campaigners that resembles ‘we told you so’ or ‘you brought this on yourselves’ will undermine our ability to undertake the most important task that we now face: a prolonged and difficult conversation with ‘leave’ voters about why they should change their minds. It becomes clearer by the day that they were lied to. Our role must be to highlight the absolute failure of the Brexit camp to live up to their promises and bring people back together to agree a way forward that includes continued EU membership based on a democratic mandate rather than an unfathomable and inequitable Brexit and its necessarily horrendous effects being imposed on us all by the sinister isolationist cabal that now wields such power within the government.