January 31st Brexit Day


On this day, 2021, the United Kingdom, formally left the European Union.

I remember vividly the morning the referendum result was announced. We were all in Glasgow for my daughter’s Graduation, and we all burst into tears.

So how is it going? Just look at the graph above, exports down 7.7% compared to other advantaged economies since 2018.

Support for Brexit has gone right down. 51% think it was a mistake, 31% think it was the right decision.  We all guffaw when someone says ‘Brexit Opportunities’ and think Jacob Rees Moog  a throw back to the Age of Empire. (I’m being polite).

I’ve long seen the parallels with the Decline and Fall of Roman Britain.  In AD 407, Britain threw off Roman rule and took independent control.  We had 4 leaders of no great distinction in a short span. Seem familiar?

Reconstruction of Dark Age London Bridge
London in the 5th Century Reconstruction painting.

Then we wrote, in AD 410, a letter to the Emperor Honourius asking him to take us back.  He said ‘Sorry, pals, the Goths are at the gates of Rome, but you can raise your own Armies to defend yourself.’

Now, the archaeology of this period is very difficult so it’s hard to know what happened in detail.  But we do know that coins went out of circulation, pottery manufacture ceased in Britain and Roman Towns declined dramatically. 

My friend, Oxford Professor Bryan Ward-Perkins, to wrote a book on the Decline of the Roman Empire in which he says that we next reached the level of international trade achieved at the height of the Roman Empire in 1500. 1000 years after the fall of Rome.

It would seem that the destruction of a free trade zone is a disastrous choice.

The second example would be when Henry VIII took Britain out of Christendom as Parliament adopted Protestantism.  The auguries are much better here despite the worst destruction of cultural heritage in England’s history.  It can be argued that the selling off of the one third of the land of the kingdom owned by the monasteries boosted the gentry and broadened the elite to include a more entrepreneurial class.

Also, the downside in terms of turning our back on Europe wasn’t so destructive because Catholic Europe wasn’t a free trade zone, and much of Northern Europe was protestant.

The other possible parallels are the Napoleonic War and World War 1 and 2. I think two major exceptions figure here. Firstly, the UK was a global trading nation and Empire which made it much less dependent on trade with Europe. Secondly, the economy was on a war footing so lost production was more than compensated for.

I’ve been writing these last two posts from Homerton Hospital where I am awaiting discharge after hernia surgery. Not too painful and I mention it just to remind everybody what a marvelous job the NHS does. What happens is that Labour Governments boost spending to a reasonable level while the Conservatives squeeze the NHS to unsustainable levels.

10 years of austerity followed by Covid and Ukraine have brought parts of the NHS to their knees, in particular the ambulance services.

So, yes, the country cannot trust a conservative government with the NHS, but perhaps another question has to be asked. Can the country trust a system that cannot trust 1 of its 2 main governing parties?

But maybe, we need not worry because this is by far and away, the worst government, most incompetent, most corrupt, most cruel, least able to plan, least respected of any government I have seen in my life time. Maybe we will soon see the back of them?

3 Replies to “January 31st Brexit Day”

  1. Most interesting analysis…
    I always wondered why ‘Dark Ages’ was the name given to that period of History we refer to as ‘Haut Moyen- âge’, so it might explain it, at least partially…

  2. I am ashamed to admit that I take some comfort in knowing that other people, other governments, really mess things up from time to time, or all the time to be more clear, because soul-shattering shame has been been a default position for many of us in the US for some time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the back of orange-grievance-baby-man and his minions? Glad to hear that you are on the mend with the help of NHS.

    1. Yes, what I think is shocking is how vulnerable democracies are when income stops going up. So, people are prepared to vote for people willing to destroy liberal democracy when they find they are short of money. I think your democracy has been in more danger than ours, but I think our government has been so incompetent, run by people who don’t really have much going for them but their own self belief. Really they have not had a coherent plan for anything, not least Brexit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *