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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Jack Kessler

More of us think Brexit was wrong – we’re never going back

There’s an episode of the short-running but highly-acclaimed animated sitcom, God, the Devil and Bob, that I think about from time to time. Bob, an average, heavy-drinking but ultimately decent man discovers he can get (and bet on) future sports scores via the Devil, deliciously voiced by Alan Cumming.

After making some easy money, things begin to unravel in the way mid-nineties morality tales are wont to do. This leads Bob to deadpan: “So you’re saying that accepting gambling tips from the Devil could have a downside? Hmm... food for thought.”

I was reminded of this line by a story in today’s paper about Brexit, specifically some analysis undertaken by our Political Editor Nicholas Cecil of more than 200 opinion polls. He finds that a growing number of Britons say the UK was wrong to leave the EU, and the gap between those who still say it was wrong versus right is now into double digits.

Of course, the idea that there may be downsides to leaving the world’s largest free trading zone, one which allows its citizens to live and work in any of 28 members states, for which our supply chains have developed to count on over a period of decades, may not come as a surprise to Londoners. Indeed, seven of the 10 areas with the highest vote share for Remain were in the capital, which city-wide voted to stay by a margin of 60-40.

Meanwhile, last night’s debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol, with a remarkable – and at times wonderfully salty – speech by Theresa May (worth watching in full), was yet another reminder, should it be needed, that Brexit is not ‘done’ in any meaningful sense.

The usual health warnings apply. Britain is not going to rejoin the bloc anytime soon. If nothing else, the EU would not take us back until it could be reliably confident we’d stay for any period of time. A few months ago, I wrote about why and, to borrow a phrase, nothing has changed.

Moreover, people don’t like to be told that they are stupid or have been misled. “’Shut up,’ he explained” is a great line, but a terrible piece of persuasion.

Better to face reality, fix the bits that can be fixed and drop the Remainer cakeism (eg pretending there are easy ways to nudge closer to the Single Market within the confines of Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit deal).

Longer-term, all that is left is the slow, tedious task of nurturing a coalition for closer integration and eventual Brentry. Don’t forget, the movements to overturn Roe v Wade and Brexit itself were decades in the making. But patience, like pretty much everything else at the moment, is in short supply.

Though don’t tell Nicola Sturgeon that. Elsewhere in the paper, Scotland’s First Minister has set a date of October 19, 2023 for a proposed Scottish independence referendum. Expect legal challenges as Sturgeon seeks clarity from the country’s top law officer on the powers of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on constitutional matters considered to be the reserve of the UK Parliament.

In the comment pages, after that cringe, bad stag do photo-op of world leaders in Bavaria (we are all Olaf Scholz), Melanie McDonagh says spare us the G7 wives performance. While Nimco Ali, back from Kigali, saw Prince Charles inspire hope at the Commonwealth summit.

And finally, after years of FOMO, chief restaurant critic Jimi Famurewa did Glastonbury for the first time. Just to see what all the fuss is about. His review: “the most annoying thing about Glastonbury ultras banging on about its unique vibe is that they may actually be right.” Friends, we’ve lost another one.

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