After 18 months or divisions and animosity since the Brexit vote, Theresa May has pledged to keep the UK “strong and united” after Britain leaves the EU.
The UK in 2018 is more divided than ever, and May’s decision last year to celebrate 52% of the country and vilify the other 48% as “saboteurs” and “enemies of the people” with the help of the Sun, Daily Mail, and Telegraph is a major cause.
The success of a major change like Brexit comes from a country uniting behind a cause, but rather than find compromise, the Conservative government decided to try and bully half of the country into submission. Each of the Leave campaigns promises of a quick, easy, and profitable break have been shown to be false, so they have been left with attacking Remainers as “people of nowhere” to try and push through a Brexit that their own impact assessments warn will make everyone poorer.
May’s latest speech demonstrates she knows the Brexit 52% of the population voted for is impossible, just like the Brexit of no single market, no customs union, and no hard border in Ireland that she promised multiple times in December. She wants the whole country to own up to this failure so the Conservatives won’t be the party that pays the price at the polls when Britons feel the their living standards fall as prices go up and wages stay stagnant under a Tory government.
The prime minister promised to defend the integrity of the UK, but the government is yet to convince the devolved administrations that they will not be the ones losing out after Brexit. The union has never look weaker, than with the Tory government propped up by a £1bn bung to Northern Ireland’s hardline DUP for a handful of votes.
Scotland voted heavily for Remain in the referendum, but will be dragged out of the European Union in 2019 with no compromises on the customs union or single market, with Scots forced to be poorer for a vague sense of “sovereignty” for which they never voted.
Wales, where a small majority did vote for Brexit, stands to lose out more. The EU has been a major donor for infrastructure and community projects in Wales, and Brexit Britain, facing falling income receipts, is unlikely to keep the same commitments for investment.
Northern Ireland will be the worst hit of all from Brexit, with large numbers of businesses facing huge additional costs to trade over the border with Ireland if the UK leaves the single market and customs union. May has promised an impossible ‘frictionless border’ on the island, but others in her party have gone further openly discussed sacrificing the hard-won Good Friday Agreement that brought peace after decades of violence, which could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
May might want a unified Britain to face the ever-increasing difficulties of Brexit, but the country is more divided than ever with 365 years to go, and it is a failure of government that is to blame.