Brexit may be the most prominent attack on the European Union’s four freedoms, but it is by no means the only one. Subtler attacks are multiplying. If they are allowed to continue unchallenged, the EU will eventually crumble.
Two years after the Brexit vote, the UK population is as divided and as shocked as it was immediately after the results were announced, if not more so. The difference is that the negative economic consequences of the vote are in sharper focus.
As 2017 draws to a close, people in Britain are beginning to realise how seriously they were deceived by the Leave side promoters before the June 2016 EU referendum.
The catalyst of this realisation is the news that Britain will return to its “iconic” blue passport, a symbol of the country’s “sovereignty”, as Prime Minister Theresa May herself called it.
“The UK passport is an expression of our independence and sovereignty — symbolising our citizenship of a proud, great nation. That’s why we have announced that the iconic #bluepassport will return after we leave the European Union in 2019,” she said on Twitter.
This reply on Twitter is the essence of why I believe this to be a crucial moment when it comes to people realising how deceitful the Leave campaign was:
The #bluepassport fiasco might rebound on T May by showing those Remain voters who’d apparently resigned themselves to #Brexit, & Leave voters beginning to wonder if it’s really up their street, just what a silly, totemic, ideological, empty farce #Brexit really is
— Sarah Ludford #FBPE (@SarahLudford) December 22, 2017
Many people took to Twitter to point out that their old passports were black, not blue, and rather dull-looking. Others wondered if the prize was worth the price, both figuratively and literally.
Here’s one example:
FFS, I don't want a fucking #bluepassport, I want a caring, inclusive, welcoming, outward-looking, economically stable Britain, where bigotry, xenophobia & racism are confined to the 20th century dustbin where they should be.
— That bloke who looks a bit like… (@SpareElbowSkin) December 22, 2017
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) December 22, 2017
Some warned the British citizens that once out of the EU, it will not be the colour of the passport that will matter, but the doors it will open.
The blue passport saga is a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Brexit vote: The public debate was hijacked by a group of people who promoted narrow views with dishonest means.
People were lied to about what the EU’s relationship with Britain was, and were promised far more than what can realistically be achieved by leaving the EU.
Before the EU referendum in 2016, the Leave campaign said that nobody was threatening Britain’s place in the Single Market. They gave assurances that not only will Britain keep its Single Market access while getting rid of freedom of movement for EU citizens, but it will also be striking out new trade deals in no time.
The reality turns out to be quite different. So far, the EU has not even hinted at the possibility that Britain will keep its place in the Single Market, while other countries are still waiting to see what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU before seriously starting trade talks.
The immigration genie is not back in the bottle; it has, in fact, been liberated by the Brexit vote, as the fast-growing emerging market countries with whom Britain tries to strike trade deals rightfully point out that relaxing immigration controls should be part of the negotiations.
The case of the blue passport is symbolic for another reason, as well. As with many things to do with Brexit, it has come to light that in fact the EU never forbade any country to choose whatever colour it wished for its passport.
As Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, pointed out, the burgundy- coloured passports are the result of a recommendation of the EU, but they are not compulsory. The UK could have chosen to ignore that recommendation, and it did not.
There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU https://t.co/bkQX0T0F2Q
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 23, 2017
Finally, an ironic tweet seems to embed the essence of what the Brexit process will do to Britain, if it continues.
It looks increasingly like a second referendum on the final deal, with the option of voting to remain in the EU, should be put high on the agenda for 2018.
Brexit and Bitcoin both start with the letter “b”. Does the similarity stop here? As it turns out, no. Both these words refer to concepts that are quite alike. Of the two, Bitcoin is probably the least toxic.
Continental Western Europe, and the European Union in particular, have often been criticised as stagnant bureaucracies that impede creativity and growth. The US and UK economies have been praised as the places to go for people who wanted to see their careers thrive.
It is true that the Anglo-Saxon model, with its focus on free markets, works best for entrepreneurial types – witness the absolute dominance of Silicon Valley in the world of tech, or the City of London in banking.
And yet, when it comes to developing, attracting and retaining talent, it looks like the EU — or at least Western Europe and countries associated with the EU — are still the best places.
Britain’s relationship with the European Union is becoming so fraught that even one of the most moderate members of government finds it hard nowadays to use the right words when talking about it.
The excitement that had been building up before the Florence speech of UK Prime Minister Theresa May is quickly turning into disappointment. Many had expected the Prime Minister to find a way to unblock the stalled negotiations over Brexit, but the speech, as delivered, was far from achieving that.
French President Emmanuel Macron went to Central and Eastern Europe recently to ask officials there to support his plan to change the legislation regarding posted workers, to prevent it being abused.
In essence, the posted workers’ directive allows one company in a member state of the European Union to send its workers to work on projects in another member state, but still pay them less than local workers. This is because, while the company has to abide by local minimum wage rules, things like tax or social security payments are still made in the country of origin.