I voted Remain but I’d love to see UK make a success of Brexit

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During the campaign, I was torn in two. While I saw the benefits of the single market and easy European travel, I feared free movement was driving down wages and preferred Parliament to set our laws rather than Brussels

I went with the status quo and voted Remain, only to watch, astonished, as the status quo switched to Leave.

My view was “Well there’s a turn-up now let’s deal with it”. I turned out to be in a minority as my fellow Remainers screamed and spat and swore we’d ruined the UK.

Many have taken cruel delight in all the troubles that have affected the UK since, pinning most of them on Brexit.

Brexit certainly hasn’t been easy, as pulling out of the single market and customs union has placed barriers in front of £550billion of trade.

We’ve struck a heap of trade deals although most replicate what was there before, while Australian and New Zealand agreements are quite small and may threaten our farmers.

However, joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be a biggie, and a trade deal with India could be a blockbuster.

With Covid and the cost-of-living crisis coming hard on the heels of Brexit, it’s hard to work out how much damage leaving the EU has done.

But there’s one figure that Remainers have ardently clung to, just as they cling to hopes of rejoining the EU one day.

They repeatedly pointed out that the UK was the only G7 economy that was still smaller than before Covid, and Brexit was naturally to blame.

Turns out it wasn’t true.

On Friday, official data from the Office for National Statistics showed that Britain had recovered its pandemic losses. Not last month, or last year, but almost two years ago in the final quarter of 2021.

Britain’s economy in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 0.6 percent larger than the final quarter of 2019, rather than 1.2 percent smaller as thought.

It means the UK economy is no longer a global outlier. We’re just as big a basket case as everyone else.

But at least we’re not worse.

Some might argue that without Brexit, the UK economy may have outstripped the G7.

I can’t see that, though, given all the problems we face. The major European countries – and I include the UK in that – tend to rise or fall broadly in line with each other, and that’s continued since Brexit.

Which makes me wonder what all the fuss was about.

Naturally, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leapt on the good news, while my Remainer friends have done their best to ignore it. Not that I discuss Brexit with them. It can still ruin friendships.

As you can probably see I’m not hugely dogmatic about Brexit (someone has to not care) but I am pretty hardcore on one point.

I want the UK to do well, whether inside or outside of the EU. I want the economy to boom, I want people to have jobs, and I want dear old Blighty to be happy and secure.

Which means I’d like us to make a go of Brexit, since that’s what we voted for. I certainly don’t want us to rejoin the EU, as that will take years more wrangling, and maybe decades, when we’ve got better things to do.

I wish the EU the best of British, too. If its economy thrives, the UK will benefit, too. This will help us stand up to all the nasty dictators out there.

But I’m worried for it.

I think the European single currency remains a disaster waiting to happen.

I never liked it. I vividly remember Black Wednesday 1992, when the pound collapsed, forcing the UK to withdraw from Europe’s Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Why anybody thought it would be a good idea for the UK to join the euro (and some still do) always baffled me.

Corralling countries as diverse as Germany and Greece into the same currency was never a good idea, as we’ve seen. It could still collapse.

I’m glad we dodged that bullet, and I’m glad we’re free of current wrangling over the European Commission budget. It wants to spend an extra €86bn (£74bn) and many EU members don’t want to foot the bill.

We’re already throwing enough money away and don’t need anything else, thank you.

The UK has plenty of problems but it’s down to us to solve them. Now that we know Brexit hasn’t sunk the economy, we need to throw everything at making it start growing again.

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