After the release of the secret Brexit analysis, do the Tories really want to roll the dice?

Now the Tory party can no longer claim they didn’t know the damage Brexit would do, do they really want to risk the long term consequences?


Until now, the government has tried to keep as much of its internal analysis under wraps, usually on the basis that making information (the EU almost certainly already has from its own analyses) public would ‘weaken the UK’s negotiating position’. This week everything changed when a government analysis that predicted the UK would be left worse off under all economic scenarios was leaked to Buzzfeed. Now the government can no longer claim they didn’t know the damage Brexit could do, pursuing Brexit could lead to a long spell in the political wilderness for the Conservative Party. Do they really want take that risk?

“Brexit will mean a reduction in growth of anything between £700 million and £2.8 billion a week”

So, what did the analysis say? Modelling a variety of post-Brexit outcomes, it found that growth over the next 15 years would be reduced compared to current forecasts. If the UK opted for a Norway-style agreement where the UK remains part of the European Economic Area, growth would be lowered by 2 percentage points and, at the other extreme, growth would be lowered by 8 percentage points under a “no deal” scenario where the UK reverts to WTO rules. To put that into Layman’s Terms, it will (if you go by the Financial Times’ calculations) mean a reduction in growth of anything between £700 million and £2.8 billion a week.

Theresa May tried to play down the significance of the document, pointing out that the “very preliminary analysis” did not model the economic outcome of the deal the UK is hoping to conclude: a bespoke deal somewhere between a Canada-style and a Norway-style agreement. The analysis may not include a bespoke deal, but it’s not hard to work out that it would lower growth by somewhere between 2 per cent and 8 per cent.

But the most significant ramification of the leak is not economic but political – this leak really makes it risky for the government to go through with Brexit. If they do decide to go against their own economic assessments, never mind almost everybody else’s, it suggests one of two things:

“If the government are so incompetent that they can’t even produce a correct forecast, how on earth are we going to get through Brexit?”

The government thinks that the analysis is wrong. Steve Baker, a Eurosceptic MP and minister at the Department for Exiting the EU certainly thinks so, labelling the analysis “project fear” and claiming that the civil service have never produced a correct economic forecast. If this is the case and the government are so incompetent that they can’t produce a correct (or even remotely accurate) forecast, how on earth are we going to get through Brexit? And why is the civil services’ recruitment policy quite so poor?

The other explanation, and for my money the more likely of the two, is that they believe the analysis is correct and are willing to sacrifice GDP growth rather than face the inevitable backlash from trying to stop Brexit. This is incredibly short-sighted from a government that will no longer be able to claim that they didn’t see the economic damage on the horizon if things start to go wrong. If a large portion of the electorate had voted for Brexit for the same reasons then it might have provided a “get out of jail free” card (if, for example, a large portion of the electorate were willing to sacrifice economic prosperity for controls on immigration). Unfortunately for the government this isn’t the case. Not only will Remainers be left unhappy, but the soft-Brexit, Daniel Hannan-type Brexiters and the “left-behind” Brexiters will be too.

As a result, any discontent and any blame for economic turmoil will be laid at the Conservative’s door for flying in the face of their own forecasts. To make matters worse, the “economically irresponsible” label is a tricky one to shake off [see “Labour after the financial crisis”] and could mean long term trouble for a Tory party that is toxic in the eyes of a largely remain-supporting younger generation – and “younger generation” means anyone under 44 years of age.

The risks associated with continuing along this path are so great then it may, as Alex Andreou has suggested, make perfect sense for ambitious, young Tory MPs to want to get as far away from the government as possible, maybe to the extent that it would be beneficial to have Corbyn in charge to implement his “jobs first” hard-Brexit and take the blame for leading the UK off of a cliff.

The release of this government analysis has left the Tories between a rock and a hard place, but perhaps they’ve been offered a lifeline by Nigel Farage – ironically, the one that got the Tories into this mess – and his suggestion that we should have a second referendum. This would be the perfect opportunity for the Tories to stop Brexit without being (directly) responsible for the decision. Perhaps Brexit would win again, but even if it did at least then the government could say “we knew the damage it would cause, but so did you”.


Should Labour push for a Soft-Brexit?

John McDonnell has reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to leaving the Single Market, but is it the right decision?

The election delivered the latest in a long line of political shocks, with the Conservatives picking up 318 seats and Labour 262. Although, objectively speaking, this could be viewed as a poor result for Labour – losing to arguably the worst campaign that has ever been seen – there is no doubt that when compared to expectations and the 20 point gap at the start of the campaign, Labour’s performance was incredible.

In fact, Labour were only 2,227 votes away from gaining seven marginal seats and being able to form a progressive alliance and now, according to the latest Survation poll, 45% of people would vote for Labour, compared to 39% for Theresa May’s Conservatives.

Experts and investors have suggested that the election result has made the prospect of a hard Brexit much less likely, but John McDonnell appears to have no appetite for this and has reinforced Labour’s position on Brexit – leaving the single market.

Adopting the Tories’ hard Brexit position was a good political move over the course of the campaign. It meant that the Conservatives were unable to attack Labour’s position which, along with the fact May didn’t actually give any details about Brexit, allowed Corbyn to change the topic of conversation to domestic issues and prevent the Liberal Democrats from gaining a foothold at the same time. But now the election is over, have Labour missed a trick?

64% of those that voted Labour also voted to remain in 2016. Labour’s decision to leave the single market is against the views of those that drove their success

On the face of it the answer is yes. Over half of ‘remain’ voters voted for Labour last Thursday, with the Conservatives sweeping up 60% of the Leave vote. To look at this the other way round, 64% of those that voted Labour also voted to remain in 2016. Labour’s decision to leave the single market is against the views of those people that drove their success.

Labour are unlikely to have the opportunity to change the topic of conversation in future general elections. The Article 50 clock will be ticking, Theresa May (and the cards close to her chest) will be long gone and the parties’ Brexit plans – and all the hardship that comes with them – will need to be discussed (even more so than they do now). Remain voters may not be so keen to throw their weight behind a Labour Party backing a hard Brexit.

It may also serve as a means of uniting the party. Several revolting MPs have said they were wrong about Corbyn’s electability and that they will now support him, but there is every possibility that fractures may emerge once more over disagreements about a hard Brexit.

But while committing to a hard Brexit could alienate remain voters, pursuing a soft Brexit could alienate the Labour Brexiters voters in the North. There is no doubt that when Corbyn and Labour initially chose their Brexit position, they chose a hard Brexit on the basis that there was a greater danger of losing votes from the Brexiters in the North than votes from the urban Remainers. The election results would suggest that this decision paid off and, therefore, that there is no need to change their position.

There may be little to gain from pursuing a soft Brexit as this may do little to entice business owners concerned with other Labour policies. Concerns regarding a corporation tax rate of 26% – which is lower than in 2010 and close to the EU and OECD averages – and a £10 minimum wage – which could stimulate consumption, increase inflation, or both – were prominent in the campaign and are unlikely to go away.

It appears that while both Labour and the Conservatives support a hard Brexit, the optimal decision is for Labour to maintain their position. This may not be the case, however, in the (rather unlikely) event that the Conservatives change their position.

Ruth Davidson, the other big winner on election night, has called for an “open Brexit” and could have a large influence on the party over the coming weeks and months due to the importance of Scotland to the wider Conservative party. Similarly, Philip Hammond remains at No11 and other, more open Conservatives, such as Anna Soubry, have found a voice too. The ‘remain’ wing of the Tories could start to yield real influence.

If the Conservatives did propose a softer Brexit, they would have the support of businesses, those on the right-wing who would never consider voting for Corbyn and possibly centre-left Remainers who would be faced with a very difficult choice: voting between the Conservative Party and Brexit.

Theresa May has migrated to La La Land with her commitment to the tens of thousands target

Earlier today, Theresa May announced that the Conservatives would not drop the commitment to reduce net migration to tens of thousands a year. The Prime Minister said that it was important to bring net migration to ‘sustainable levels’ because of the impact immigration has on people at the lower end of the income scale and the pressure it puts on public services. The issue with such a commitment is that not only is it based on nonsense, it means Theresa May will be contradicting herself.

Firstly, the notion that immigration negatively impacts employment prospects and wages for those at the lower end of the income scale centres around the idea that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy. Not only is this untrue, the research finds virtually no impact upon either employment or wages.

There is little evidence that migration has caused displacement of UK natives from the labour market in periods when the economy has been strong, with some evidence of small labour market displacement impacts in times of recession. The majority of research finds no relationship between immigration and wages, with the few studies that do observing incredibly small, negative impacts of around one per cent.

This is a result of an adjustment in the economy. Firms adjust their production function to use more labour and immigrants spend money on goods and services, both of which increase demand in the economy; labour responds to an inflow of immigrants into a region by moving onwards, reducing the regional supply of labour; and migrants and natives have different skills which reduces competition between them.

Identifying whether immigrants put pressure on public services is not an exact science, but research has found the following:

  • Academics at UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration predict that immigrants are net contributors to the NHS, paying in £4.4 billion more than they take out.
  • The fertility rate is thought to be about 2.2 children per non-UK born women and 1.8 for UK-born women, with the ONS predicting that births to non-UK born women made up 78% of the increase in the number of births.  The impact this has on schools, however, is dependent upon whether the fertility rate is being raised in concentrated areas or not.
  • An LSE report notes that two thirds of housing demand is created by a lack of social housing stock, an increase in life expectancy, and more households delaying marriage or forgoing cohabitation resulting in an increased number of smaller households.
  • The University of Cambridge study found that an immigration inflow equal to 1% of the local initial population leads to a reduction of 1.6% in house prices.

This suggests that immigration may put some pressure on schools but has little impact on other areas. Given that migrants from the A8 countries – those that joined the EU in 2004 – contributed £1.12 for every £1 received and those from the rest of the EU put in £1.64 for every £1, it could easily be posited that blame lies with the government for not using these contributions to invest properly in public services.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the commitment is that Theresa May is contradicting herself. In her speech in January at Lancaster House she said:

“We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain – indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country’s most distinctive assets – but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.”

The problem with the tens of thousands target is that this means turning away the ‘brightest and best’. Cutting low-skilled immigration and the number of foreign students – who generate £25.8 billion in gross output – could decrease net migration to around 150,000, leaving the government with the choice of turning away at least 50,000 high skilled workers or to miss the target.

What would the impact be if net migration was reduced to the tens of thousands? Several industries, such as the horticulture and accomodation industries, would experience labour shortages; GDP per person could fall by 1% (according to research from the University of Strathclyde); and workers will be taxed more heavily to fill the hole in public services, particularly as our population continues to age and the working population shrinks.

What’s most likely, however, is that the pressure from businesses will be too great and Theresa May will fail to meet the target as she has done for the past seven years.

Why did Theresa May call a snap election, and will she win as convincingly as expected?

Despite definitively ruling out a general election on five occasions between 30 June and 20 March, Theresa May called for a snap election this morning which – if supported by Parliament – will take place on 8 June. It has been suggested, based on YouGov’s most recent voting intention poll, that the Conservatives could greatly increase their lead over Labour to 200 seats, but is this the reason the election was called and will the Conservatives win by such a landslide?

The Conservatives’ enormous lead in the polls appears to be the obvious explanation for the decision, especially when fears that Corbyn will resign if Labour performs poorly in the local elections in May are factored into the equation. While I doubt that he would, if this were the case it could mark the end of the Tories’ opportunity to receive such a large majority.

Voting intention 12-13 Apr-01

David Davis, speaking on LBC, said that the election was called so that a mandate can be given for May’s hard Brexit vision, putting the argument that ‘the people voted for Brexit, but not for this hard Brexit’ to bed.

This makes sense on the surface but James O’Brien has looked upon this explanation more cynically, positing that the government is expecting some very bad times in the near future. By calling for an election now, May is likely to receive higher support for her Brexit vision that further down the line when the negative impacts – which, according to the FT, are beginning to take effect – are felt. Even more cynically, O’Brien posited that when Britain ‘hits these Brexit icebergs’, as he called them, May can point to the election and state that ‘the people voted to hit this iceberg.’

Another explanation concerns the recent election fraud claims. The snap election avoids over a dozen possible by-elections and wipes the election expenses slate clean. It has also been suggested that early June is an optimal time as students, less likely to vote Conservative, will be between university and home and less likely to vote.

It’s inconceivable that May will not win the election, with a high chance that she will increase the slim majority of 17 in the Commons she currently enjoys – although it’s worth remembering that in this day and age the inconceivable is never out of the question – but will she win by a landslide predicted?

Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus has predicted that the Conservatives could gain as many as 56 seats from Labour, these swings largely taking place in the more ideologically-central Labour constituencies and some of the Brexit voting constituencies in the North. The Southern, Remain-voting constituencies might not be so easy to gain or hold, however. Farron and the Liberal Democrats are the prominent Remain option and the best option for Remain voters to protest a hard Brexit.

Things are already looking good for the Lib Dems, with several predictions that they will gain seats from both Remain voting constituencies and some of the constituencies that swung to the Conservatives in 2015. If Farron can create a Progressive Alliance or change (primarily Conservative) voters’ perception that he cannot be taken seriously, the Lib Dems to could make some serious ground and reverse the dismal results from 2015.

Although it’s unlikely that Lib Dem gains will cause May much political damage, the symbolic damage could be significant. This damage would be exacerbated further if something else inconceivable, a surge of support for Corbyn, was to happen to limit the number of Labour losses.

Everything is going to change over the next seven weeks and only one thing is for sure: the road to June 8 is going to be a bumpy ride.

Theresa May and Tim Farron’s Brexit strategies have one thing in common, they are both flawed

On the face of it, Theresa May and Tim Farron don’t have a huge amount in common. The similarities seemingly end with their unsuccessful election campaigns in the 1992 general election in North West Durham and their current positions in Parliament, leading the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, respectively. Despite their polarised views on the right direction for the UK’s negotiations after Brexit they do, bizarrely, share something in common – their preferred tactics for negotiations are fundamentally flawed.

May’s strategy, at least on the surface, appears to be “we’re leaving, no matter what”, which is then usually followed by some bizarre description of Brexit (what on earth is a Red, White and Blue Brexit!?). This strategy of acting as though the government has been given carte blanche, interpreting the referendum outcome for orders to leave the EU, regardless of whether we can have our cake and eat it, is incredibly dangerous.

“People talk about the sort of Brexit that there is going to be – is it hard or soft, is it grey or white? Actually, we want a red, white and blue Brexit: that is the right Brexit for the UK, the right deal for the UK”

I have already discussed how Brexiters support starts to dwindle when it is associated with any costs whatsoever (perhaps we want a “free-of-charge Brexit” in that case), and the wide variety of reasons that motivated Brexiters to vote to leave and, therefore, the almost impossible task of keeping the 52% happy.

In terms of the eventual deal, it is unlikely the UK will receive a favourable deal, pushing us towards the hard Brexit door. Article 50’s two-year negotiating period and the EU’s slow and complex decision making process (all 27 EU states, who are have different aims, must agree to any exit deal) already puts the UK in a weak position. With the absence of a transition period to soften the blow, something that the government is reluctant to take if the recently ‘leaked’ memo is anything to go by, the odds are stacked against the UK in their pursuit of receiving favourable concessions.

Parliament, who are highly likely to have a say in the negotiating process, could play a role in this. Their checks and balances are crucial in preventing a harmful deal from materialising, but this can only happen if Labour are strong enough to reject any deal that will damage the UK’s prosperity.

Unfortunately, that isn’t a stance that they have taken whatsoever. Instead, Labour (who are under pressure from the Lib-Dems in the South and UKIP in the North) have said that while they will make demands they, ultimately, won’t stand in the way of Brexit whatsoever, this is typified by Tom Watson’s statement in November. This is the equivalent of asking someone not to burn down your house but promising that, in the event that they do, you won’t call 999.

“We want to protect workers’ rights, we want to protect companies’ right to trade in the single market, tariff-free, we want to support jobs, we want to make sure people don’t lose out, but we’re certainly not going to hold up Article 50 if we don’t get the deal.”

If the UK is destined to a hard Brexit (and not one on its terms, for that matter), perhaps it is worth embracing another Brexit strategy? Perhaps Tim Farron and the Lib Dems strategy? Unfortunately, giving the electorate the final say on any deal – a view I look upon much more favourably; we voted to leave, not on the destination – is equally as flawed.

“Article 50 would proceed but only if there is a referendum on the terms of the deal and if the British people are not respected then, yes, that is a red line and we would vote against the government.”

If the government agreed to give the electorate a final say on any deal this would provide a huge incentive to the EU to drag their heels. They would be determined to stand firm, to reject any concessions and wait for the Article 50 timeglass to run out in the hope that the electorate is horrified by any alternative and votes to remain in the EU.

Farron’s strategy, therefore, ensures we are equally as unlikely to receive concessions and points towards a hard Brexit. Of course, there is every chance that such a plan may work and the electorate would vote to Remain after all, but Brexiters do not take kindly to being put in a corner by those “unelected bureaucrats” in Brussels and could call the EU’s bluff which would only serve to make matters worse as the UK is left in the wilderness – neither in the EU, nor in the WTO.

In that case, what options do the UK have? Perhaps attempting a strategy which is neither Farron’s nor May’s. The government should demand that the two parties agree on a transition period for the UK – whereby the UK drops into a model where we remain in the customs union, perhaps one of the “off the shelf” models – and then, once this agreed, the final exit deal is thrashed out over a greater period than the two years allowed by Article 50.

The EU would be incredibly reluctant to do this; however, the UK could use their biggest leverage to reach a position close to this aim – not EU citizens residing in the UK, but the ability to trigger Article 50 whenever it suits the UK. This uncertainty would hit the UK hard, of course, but the EU is more vulnerable than it has ever been: the result of Italy’s recent referendum has caused chaos in the markets; the French and German elections are just around the corner; and, the threat of the far-right vastly increasing their political base is present across the continent.

A Brexit deal could be hammered out over this transition period which, when both parties are finally satisfied, could be put back to the electorate in the form of a second referendum. If the UK votes for the deal, it is more likely to be a deal that “works for Britain”, not to mention the fact that the government will be far less accountable for any subsequent turbulence. If the UK rejects the deal, we will remain safely inside the EU but, unfortunately, a lot more likely to see more of Farage’s face on our screens.

Such a plan would have its flaws. It is likely that a time limit would still be needed to keep both the EU and uncertain businesses happy and, worryingly, it is also possible that the EU will still refuse to accept our demands, the fact they’re weak is their best reason to remain strong.

It will probably never be known whether this hybrid strategy would’ve been possible or if it would’ve led to a favourable deal for the UK, but one thing is clear – whether under Farron’s strategy or under May’s strategy, the UK is heading for a “car crash Brexit”.

Theresa May has fallen into the same trap as David Cameron – and we will all pay the price

As you may have noticed, the 2016 Conservative Party Conference has taken place in Birmingham this week. It is likely to be remembered as one of the best weeks for Brexiters following the referendum and probably the worst week for everybody else as the UK gears up towards the car crash that is Brexit.

In 2013 David Cameron pandered to the right of his party and called for the referendum on the belief that it would heal the rifts in his party and lay down his authority to backbenchers rallying against him – a plan which backfired in spectacular fashion. Three years on and it appears that Theresa May, admittedly with far less manoeuvrability than Cameron, has not learned any lessons and has fallen into the trap of playing party politics with the Brexit negotiations, for which we will all pay the price.

As Gideon Rachman’s article in the Financial Times articulates perfectly, the ability to choose when to trigger Article 50 gave May leverage to seek assurances regarding an interim deal for transition. May’s announcement that the UK will trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017 has meant that the failure to get these assurances will mean the UK will probably drop into a “legal limbo that will discourage long-term investment” following the end of the two year negotiating period, unless our understaffed departments can miraculously negotiate both the terms of the UK’s divorce and a new trade deal with the EU, whilst also negotiating World Trade Organisation membership (which will involve the ratification of 163 countries, any one of which could derail the process in the hope of extracting concessions).

This decision has been a result of politics. May will have begun to fear the plotters, concerned over an attempt to backtrack on Brexit, sharpening their knives. By giving them this announcement she has kept them at bay for the meantime but at the cost of potential devastation to the economy.

To exacerbate matters further, May’s has also alluded to a so-called ‘Hard-Brexit’, with one of the primary motivations for this decision undoubtedly being controls on immigration. Once the flood gates were opened a torrent of anti-immigration sentiment – to the delight of Express and Mail readers, no doubt – came bursting through the floodgates. Notable proposals include:

  • Companies could be forced to publish the proportion of “international” staff employed in a move which would effectively “name and shame” businesses which are failing to employ UK workers
  • A crackdown on international students, who are worth £7 billion to the UK economy and generate 137,000 jobs, that come to Britain from outside the EU, pledging to limit the number who are allowed to study on lower quality courses
  • All medical students will be required to work in the NHS for a minimum of four years after they qualify and international students will be charged for their clinical placements, which they do not pay for at present
  • EU nationals residing in the United Kingdom are one of the UK’s main “bargaining chips”
  • Much to my delight, the UK’s youth should take up the fruit picking and farm labouring jobs currently done by EU migrants

The decision, which will result in the UK having to surrender its single market membership, seems baffling after reading a study this week from the London School of Economics which asked voters “How much would you be willing to pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering Britain?”. The results below speak for themselves. It makes no sense to take such drastic measures which will undoubtedly hurt the economy when only 38% of voters (14.06% of the entire eligible electorate) would be willing to pay a price to reduce migration other than as a result of political pressure.


There is no other obvious explanation for May’s announcement of Hard-Brexit other than to appease her backbenchers, however the sacrifice for May safeguarding her position is that markets have not reacted kindly.

A frantic selloff has ensued and Sterling has now fallen to a new 31-year low with the pound now dropping below what the Independent have stated is the “psychologically important” $1.27 level. Sterling has now fallen to $1.2695 with forecasts looking even more dire – Danske Bank, Credit Suisse and Unicredit have all predicted further falls over the next six months to around the $1.08-1.11 level.

It is only a matter of time before the repercussions of Brexit are felt. Consumers have continued to spend as if all is rosy up to this point, but a (further) rise in the price imports (and therefore a rise in the price of exports for those goods where component parts are imported) will be seen, with people’s disposable incomes beginning to decrease – something that will not be helped by a fall in employment levels and businesses begin to feel the pinch.

But this is only the beginning. Leaving the single market is likely to create job losses – the UK’s finance industry, for example, could lose up to £40 billion in revenue and lead to 75,000 job losses, the UK will be in a sufficiently worse position to attract Foreign Direct Investment of which the UK has been a hotspot due to our membership of the single market and the UK will lose tax revenue desperately needed to invest in our ageing infrastructure, arguably the true cause of the resentment which led to the Leave vote, which Philip Hammond has already indicated will be done through increased borrowing.

Theresa May is safe, for now, but we will all pay the price over the next few months and years for her decision to pander to the Conservative backbenchers.

Brexit means Brexit… except in parliament

You lost, get over it”, the famous quote from the mouths, or keyboards, of many a Leave voter which is slowly being consigned to the far corners of the internet as the sheer complexity and magnitude of the task at hand that is leaving the European Union comes into focus. Of course, Remain voters have been far from quiet – naturally, the losing side is always the one which shouts louder – with calls that, as we begin to learn what Brexit means beyond ‘Brexit’, may echo down the halls of Westminster. As inconceivable as it may seem, when push comes to shove the people bound by the referendum result more than anyone – the 650 MPs in the House of Commons – may be the very people that turn their back on it.

Before such an idea can be dismissed as nothing more than the thoughts of hopeful and/or naïve Remainers it must reach a stage where such a decision can be decided by parliament. As it stands, Theresa May intends to trigger Article 50 without consent of parliament (a decision hailed by Leave voters which, ironically, shuns democracy as a means of ‘bringing democracy back to the British Isles’), yet a closer look at the relevant legislation suggests that this may not be possible.

“As a matter of the constitutional law of the United Kingdom… the Royal Prerogative, whilst it embraces the making of treaties, does not extend to altering the law or conferring rights upon individuals or depriving individuals of rights which they enjoy in domestic law without the intervention of Parliament.”

Jolyon Maugham, a UK based lawyer, notes that these words from Lord Oliver in ‘Rayner (Mincing Lane) v DTI [1990] 2 AC 418, 462’ suggest that Article 50 cannot be triggered without the consent of parliament as a royal prerogative would, almost certainly, alter or deprive the rights of individuals.

“The UK’s membership of the EU gives us rights as individuals: to live abroad, healthcare cover on temporary travels, to accrue pension rights working in other Member States, and so on. Parliament has not acted to modify or abrogate those rights. It cannot be right that the Executive can. To say this is to do no more than articulate a specific instance of an important general rule about the limits of Prerogative Power. To ignore it is to put citizens at the mercy of the Government.”

Despite the ‘mandate’ arising from one of the biggest democratic exercises in the UK’s history, parliament is only bound by the result of the referendum politically, they are not legally bound by the result of a purely advisory referendum in any way. Furthermore, this ‘mandate’ only relates to the withdrawal from the European Union, with no comment on what capacity – be that regarding whether it should be a hard or soft Brexit, on immigration, trade, whether the EU budget goes to the NHS, and on and on – all that was decided is that the UK should leave the EU.

However, whilst it is conceivable that such a decision may reach parliament, it seems pretty inconceivable that MPs would vote against the will of the electorate, right? MPs representing constituencies that voted Remain – London, Brighton, the entirety of Scotland, etc. – would probably vote against the 52%, but surely it is madness that those MPs representing the constituencies of the towns and cities which felt they had been left behind by the ever more globalised world and, as such, voted to leave the EU, would do such a thing?

Maybe not, no. Brexit doesn’t mean what Brexit was supposed to mean.

The Leave campaign promised it all, typified by Boris’s clunky, muddled post-referedum speech on the morning of 27 June – membership of the world’s largest customs union, trade with the rest of the world, an end to free movement, no EU budget contributions, etc. we could have it all.

As time passes, however, we’re seeing that big trade-offs are going to have to be made, and that Brexit isn’t nearly as appealing as it was presented to the electorate prior to 23 June.

“Brexit means the UK will become a truly global economy”

Of course, while noting that no negotiations have yet begun, it appears that quite the opposite will occur. Australia, the US, and no doubt a whole host of other countries, have taken the position that they are reluctant to begin trade negotiations until the UK’s relationship with the European Union becomes clear. Remaining in the customs union creates issues as far as immigration and worldwide trade negotiations are concerned (Liam Fox and his department for International Trade are basically out of a job if this ensues) but leaving the union means a whole new set of issues arise.

As the Japanese government – who, unlike the UK, have actually analysed the economic repercussions of Brexit – have recently warned, Brexit will risk the UK’s position as the hotspot for foreign direct investment from non-EU companies seeking access to the world’s largest customs union that is the EU, such as the Nissan factory in Leave Sunderland for instance. Far from becoming the worldwide economic hub, Brexit may result in a loss of this FDI with the unemployment, fall in tax revenue and the fall in worldwide status that accompanies it.

The punchline in this dilemma is that to leave the customs union means the UK will become far more dependent on striking a favourable deal with countries that will, economically, hold us with much less importance. This will be exacerbated by years of uncertainty and will, eventually, take a toll on the economy as we negotiate our new economic relationship with the EU, remember that the EU-Canada trade agreement was launched in 2007; it has still not been ratified.

Brexit was presented as the golden ticket for exporters, and for our current account deficit, yet Nick Clegg – who recently analysed the implications of Brexit for trade alongside Peter Sutherland, the former founding director-general of the World Trade Organisation – has declared that this not the case at all. Only 15% of total UK trade is with countries that are neither members of the EU, nor covered by an EU trade agreement that is either in force or under negotiation which suggests that, for the time being, clearly life is going to be much more difficult for exporters than at present once tariffs are applied which will place UK exporters at a cost disadvantage.

Clegg continues, stating that substituting Britain’s current arrangement for a free-trade agreement will, contrary to what the Leave campaign led the electorate to believe, create a torrent of paperwork for exporters. Exporters will have to put their products through exhaustive customs checks and comply with complex rules of origin to prove where their goods and component parts were manufactured.

To add insult to injury, the UK will have to establish its own schedule of commitments – the tariffs it proposes to levy on imported goods and services – which requires negotiation with 163 countries, any one of which, according to Clegg and Sutherland, could derail the process in the hope of extracting concessions.

“Our analysis suggests the most likely scenario is that the UK leaves the EU without any preferential trade deal in place — and without a WTO schedule of commitments. We will therefore lose access to more than 50 existing free-trade agreements”

One final point to raise regards the obstacle that specifications pose. Chad Brown, formerly a lead economist at the World Bank, notes that most UK regulatory standards from food to pharmaceuticals are in line with EU standards which, if the breakdown in TTIP negotiations are anything to go by, creates issues for future UK trade deals. Frequently during TTIP negotiations, talks broke down as technical standards were incompatible, therefore the extent to which the UK shares a trade agreement with the USA, for example, may be at the mercy of how willing the UK is to alter their regulatory standards, however this could then jeopardise the UK’s agreement with the EU.

“Brexit means taking back control of our borders”

Arguably the cornerstone of the Leave campaign was the vow to introduce controlled immigration to make Britain ‘British’ again, yet this appears to be in tatters also. As we know, if the UK opts to remain a member of the customs union it almost certainly has to accept the free movement of people (or something incredibly similar), but there doesn’t appear to be an alternative anyway.

May has not only rejected the idea of a points-based immigration system (stating that they do not work) but also David Davis’s ‘personal view’ that it was very improbable the UK would stay in the single market unless there were border controls in place.

“This government is looking at every option but the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, I think that makes it very improbable”

Based on this, it suggests that the UK is heading for an immigration policy very similar to the free movement of people. This has been highlighted by the recent statement from Philp Hammond, that there will be preferential treatment for ‘highly skilled’ people, notably bankers, and will almost certainly lead to an orderly queue being formed from a variety of industries – such as science, tech and restaurants – all asking “what about us?”.

“Brexit means we stop sending £350m a week to Brussels”

Of course, we now know that the £350 million we send to Brussels every week will not, despite being emblazoned on the Leave campaign’s battle bus, be sent to the NHS (and not just because we didn’t send £350m a week) but it may not even be going to another department (say, to the Department for Exiting the European Union to pay for the costs of negotiators for Brexit) but may, in actual fact, continue to be sent to Brussels.

David Allen Green, former government lawyer, affirms that if the UK wished to leave before 2020 it would require substantial re-negotiation of an already heavily negotiated budget which is in place until the end of the decade, this would involve the agreement of the other 27 member states (none of which have an interest in a renegotiation) as well as the EU institutions.

The result is a paradox, any attempt to leave before 2020 would mean months, if not years, of budget renegotiation which would delay any agreement. Therefore, this may explain why Hammond was so ready to guarantee domestic EU-related funding arrangements until 2020.

The list of broken promises could continue indefinitely, but the point is that whatever option the 650 MPs in the House of Commons are faced with will be completely different from the utopian vision that the Leave campaign promised the electorate and, therefore, may have the justification required to support their actions.

What would follow this in the event that it did arise is purely speculation. No doubt there would be anger from Leave voters who, by that point, would be shouting just as loudly as Remainers, but the government’s next move would be anybody’s guess.

Perhaps the government would go back to the drawing board and propose a different Brexit agreement which MPs would be more inclined to support – after all, rejecting a poor plan for post-Brexit Britain is a completely different thing from rejecting Brexit. Perhaps there would be a second referendum, one that is bound by law rather than being advisory which would not only give May the ability to trigger Article 50 without parliament but would also leave no doubt that the electorate wished to leave the European Union.

Perhaps, however, we will never get to this point, perhaps all Brexit will ever mean is Brexit.