Brexit – must we now pragmatically accept our fate?

The Times’ survey, published this morning on the eve of the latest (and probably final) deadline to decide a deal, shows Britain as divided as ever over Brexit. Most of us can relate to the four categories and would by now have worked out where to put themselves and their friends and family. I know where I stand and I am n0t falling out with anyone in other categories. Life and COVID are too hard and too energy sapping right now to go to wave my flag outside parliament.

But what is absolutely clear is that the promised of an oven-ready deal which was made to us this time last year was a false promise. There was no acceptable deal then and if we get a deal today, it will be a lot “wetter” than the dry-hard terms promised in Boris Johnson’s election campaign. It is the deal we will have to live with.

What has happened in the last 12 months to sentiment?

The Times’ poll suggests that Brexit , far from eating the middle ground, has created a new middle ground shared by die hard and cautious optimists whose positions seemed to have coalesced. It looks like many die hards are now cautious while the number of accepting pragmatists has dwindled with opinion amongst remainers hardening towards devestated pessimism.

Overall there appears to be a small shift towards regretting the decision the nation took nearly four years ago but the overwhelming trend appears to be the inexorable rise of pessimism (now as high as at any time over the past four years).

My position has been accepting pragmatism, mainly because I live in a household where die-hard optimism for a post Brexit Britain predominates but also  because I have not got the economic imagination to understand what life will be like without the EU.

What could be worse than no deal?

If we had been asked this question this time last year, I suspect most of us would not have said – “a year of pandemic lockdown” but right now, relative to the strictures created by COVID-19,  most people will regard the immediate implications of no-deal as second order.

What is really going on in our heads?

Have we discovered a new resilience or are we so punch-drunk that we have lost all sense of that economic imagination needed to think ahead?

I suspect that this capacity to think ahead is linked with age. The Times found that virtually nobody surveyed had changed their mind on how they’d have voted in 2016 and that a major divide between remain and leave was age.

I guess my generation (55+) has a different dream for Britain than our kids. Is this fired out of a nostalgia for a past we can still vaguely remember or simply for a rejection of the present. Do our kids yearn for utopia or simply fear the dystopia of an unknown unknown?

Where you live matters in how you think.

The dividing lines between young and old are clear, as are the dividing lines between regions. Regions with high-dependency on EU support (Scotland and Northern Ireland) are also regions with low allegiance to a central Westminster led Government. Maybe not enough thinking has been done on the divisiveness of being a member of the EU to the idea of Great Britain, will a post-Brexit GB re-emerge or will it simply make the calls for nationalism in Scotland and Wales stronger – and how will it feel to be a  Northern Irish protestant?

It is very striking that the sense of Britain-alone is strongest in the north and the midlands and that – at least emotionally – they are the winners. It is not often that they have won any political advantage since the last world war. I don’t get much sense amongst those of us in the South that we owe our northern neighbors a say in the peace dividend – though they have the same vote as we do. “Regional supremacist” is not a title that sits happily on my southern shoulders.

A realignment?

The Times poll shows us that we are divided as a nation over Brexit but consistent in our divides. The young and old differ in opinions as do the north and south of England. Other nations within the UK differ from England – though Wales seems to swing both ways.

We are getting a better idea of how we differ, but we are not coming together. We may be united in frustration about how the negotiations have been handled but we are not calling for another referendum.

What saddens me is the inability of either side to understand differing positions and accept their validity. Those who want to leave argue for taking back control of our national identity while those who want to remain argue for economic advantage, there seems very few of us who can see self-determination as having a price worth paying or that we can’t go it alone at any price. But these are precisely the questions that are being negotiated. Whatever comes out of these negotiations – even if it is no deal – is what we as a nation will have to live and work with

On that basis , the bottom blue line (on the chart of the top) is the line that has most scope for growth. We will have to move from being a nation with dogmatic aspirations to a nation of pragmatic acceptance, within a few days.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Brexit – must we now pragmatically accept our fate?

  1. DaveC says:

    There is no ‘indifferent’ option.

    You’ll wake up tomorrow and eat breakfast, pay taxes, and follow rules, while you go about earning your living.

    The combination of all of them may change a bit.

    Just as they may do because of a virus doing the rounds.

    We should all be able to see the fundamental uncertainty of our reality and be willing to readily accept change.
    What should change is our willingness to make things better when we’re not happy, rather than be as apathetic in future.

    The fact some are seeing winners and losers suggests they are living their lives in the past, and need to change their outlook to be forward looking and making the world the place they want it to be.
    Happiness doesn’t come from thinking you’re a loser, nor would I think do most winners believe they are winners.

  2. John Mather says:

    Brexit was always just a label on a box that no one had opened. Those who voted for it imagined what the label meant. Now it seems that many are unhappy with the contents. Coming on top of a pandemic it will damage further the productivity of the U.K. The consequence is clearly the decline in living standards for many years to come. Most of the pain will be inflicted on the poor with social unrest a serious risk. There is a new word describing the way Boris communicates. He testiculates def: waving arms around whilst talking bollocks

  3. Tim Simpson says:

    Hi Henry,
    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your article but The Times is part of Murdoch’s stable and they are Brexit! As are the Express, Mail Group, Telegraph etc. The much criticised BBC wasn’t. Possibly under Dominic Cumming’s guidance, this Government has always threatened a ‘hard break’ i.e. tellingl the EU where to ‘get off’ since that is their mandate. So what is new? As a dedicated Remainer [Oh God…!], I think as Michael Bloomberg once said ‘It was the single stupidest thing any country has ever done but then we Trumped it’. Yet USA has probably ousted Trump [at least he never took us to war]. The first ten years of my working life was before UK joined EU: exports/imports to them weren’t easy and those involved easily saw it, as did the majority of the then electorate; rather more that the latest 51% of 2016. Like Trump and the ‘rust belt’ Northern UK apparently felt abandoned here too and Cumming’s latched onto that; and why not? With all the reported political difficulties with HS2 [ specifically for the North’s benefit], how confident do you feel about a satisfactory & beneficial Brexit.

  4. Dr Robin Rowles says:

    As a confirmed Remainder and Europhile I have always looked upon BREXIT with horror as it always appeared to me that the purpose of BREXIT was to enable the rich elite of the UK to gain more control and more money, preferably tax-free in one of the UK”s tax havens. The political and financial elite have always been scared of the EU, not because it means “Brussels” controls the UK (it doesn’t) but because of the EU requirement that workers are treated fairly. Who cares about the workers and their fair treatment as long as the bonuses, share income and ludicrously high salaries are maintained for the “top brass”? And who owns the vast majority of the UK media? Take the COVID vaccine. “We could only rush the approval because we are no longer in the EU” LIES!!! But that nice Mr Murdoch told us it was true……. And now we are told that those of us who paid a large portion of our salaries into a DB scheme are going to have to help fund the recovery from COVID-19. Not that nice Mr Murdoch (and others) though…….

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