On June 23 2016, people in Bristol and across the UK voted in a referendum on the country’s continued membership of the European Union. Three years on, it’s hard to see how we’ve progressed any further, aside from getting the country into an even deeper mess.
Back in June 2016, the type of Brexit we were going to get wasn’t decided. Now, it still isn’t.
Then, people thought they knew what was going to happen next. Now, no-one has a clue.
Then, ‘no deal’ wasn’t even mentioned. Now, the MPs in contention for being prime minister tell us ‘no deal’ might be the only option.
Before David Cameron started talking about a referendum, for most people the issue of whether we should be in or out of the EU was irrelevant. People were always more concerned about what affected them on a day-to-day basis.
But then suddenly, lots of politicians from different parties had to join David Cameron in the Remain campaign. They had to travel around the country trying to explain how great the EU was for everybody, against a background of austerity and a country still not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crash.
Three years ago, because of Brexit, the Conservatives swapped the prime minister – and now they’re doing it again.
It’s an election for prime minister that you can’t vote in unless you are a Conservative Party member. An election that you can’t vote in even though it’s all about Brexit.
And after three years, what’s the best that the MPs in the race can say about Brexit? That we’ve just got to do it. Just go through with it. They don’t even pretend there’s anything positive about it anymore.
Brexit wasn’t a great idea three years ago. Nothing that we’ve seen or heard since has made it a better one.
Having a referendum where we didn’t describe what the Leave option actually meant, in terms of exactly how we would leave the EU and then trade with it, has been a disaster. Not least because it’s allowed the supporters of ‘no deal’ to keep pushing for their preferred option, until we’ve reached the point at which it’s a distinct possibility.
Three years of trying to work out how we are going to do Brexit has caused enough damage. Leaving won’t stop that, and if we do leave there will be several more years of talks with the EU before we agree what our trade relationship with it will be.
That is why having another referendum, or scrapping Brexit altogether, is now front page news.
Will Hull is a member of Bristol For Europe, a non-party pressure group campaigning to keep the UK inside the European Union.
Main photo: Pro-EU campaigners on College Green in June 2016
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