Brexit: that word that nobody had heard of before 2016. It still dominates our lives and will do for many years to come. Its shadow still looms over elections and its aftermath is challenging the very structure of the UK itself.

Six months on from the Brexit “deal” between the UK and EU and perhaps it’s time to see what’s changed as far as the UK is concerned. We were promised new free trade deals as well as new opportunities for fishing and farming but what is the reality?

Before I start, let me be clear that I was a Remainer. I still think we’d have been better off in the EU but have accepted the referendum result. I don’t believe that we’ll be re-joining anytime soon. 


I’m still worried that many of those who voted for Brexit will be the ones who will suffer most through job losses and higher prices. Any deal with the UK should protect those people. The current deal doesn’t. So, I’m not perhaps the most objective of people on this issue but let’s look at some positives. 


The UK has indeed signed new free trade deals, most notably with Japan, but they just replicate the deals that already existed when we were in the EU.The UK has undoubtedly done better than the EU when it comes to vaccine procurement. The EU has not covered itself with glory in the way that it’s behaved in that regard.


I’ve struggled to find anything else that’s a positive. The fishing industry is being kept afloat with government money. The reality is that most fish from the UK are exported to the EU. That market has effectively closed. Having control over your fisheries is one thing but there’s no point fishing if you have no customers. 


For farming there’s talk of unrestricted imports of meat from Australia and New Zealand while at the same time being unable to access the European market. If that happens, farming is done for.

Only this week, Lord Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, extolled the virtues of free trade and the opportunities that brings. Let’s be clear though, free trade means exporting jobs to low-cost countries and buying lower quality, cheaper, food at the expense of supporting our own farmers. 

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There are those on the right who think this is a good thing. Why not let others make things cheaper? If that means losing jobs then so be it. All in the name of efficiency according to them.

No place is more aware of the problems of Brexit than Northern Ireland. It’s just seen the resignation of its first minister, largely because she actually believed Boris Johnson when he said there would be no border down the Irish Sea.
Northern Ireland is where the UK has a land border with the EU. There are no border posts, no passport controls. No barbed wire for Steve McQueen lookalikes to try to get over.


You only know you’ve crossed that border when the lines at the side of the road change colour. White in the north, yellow in the south. It’s a border that’s unpoliceable.
So, the customs border is in the Irish Sea. This has inflamed tensions amongst half of the population who cannot accept any barrier between Britain and Northern Ireland. 

This seems to have taken the UK Government by surprise and they are now trying to blame the EU for the situation, even though Boris Johnson agreed it. 
The current problems in Northern Ireland and fairly and squarely down to the type of Brexit that the UK overnment wanted to have.


The only other alternative under the current constitutional arrangement is to put a hard border in place at the boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic. 
This would inevitably anger the other half of the population who don’t like that border and have little or no affinity with the UK. It would also breach the Good Friday Agreement.

None of this of course was discussed during the Brexit referendum. The myth of the UK being an island kept on being perpetuated.  Over and over again we were told that the UK would control its borders even though it has a large land border with the Republic of Ireland that has no controls over it. 

In reality, the situation in Northern Ireland is unreconcilable. You either have a border in the sea or on the land. Anybody could have seen that coming and it raises the question as to whether the UK negotiators were incapable of understanding this or whether they were so desperate for a deal that they were blind to the consequences and just didn’t care. I suspect it was the latter.


Of course, we may see a great flourishing of the economy post-Brexit. Perhaps the EU will capitulate and grant the UK its every wish. I doubt it though, and those who promoted Brexit still have a great deal of work to do to show that the advantages they promised are actually real. The onus is on them now. Let’s see what they can do.