ANYONE who needs reminded about just how bad an idea Brexit is, and how utterly catastrophic a no-deal departure would be, needs to look no further than the pound’s surge this week.

Sterling, which has been under extreme pressure since the UK electorate’s ill-judged vote in June 2016 to leave the European Union, has climbed on the back of the latest political manoeuvrings.

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Taken together, these political developments appear to reduce the chances of an (immensely damaging) no-deal Brexit. They seem to increase the possibility of a delay to Brexit and even offer a renewed glimmer of hope that the utter folly of leaving the EU might be abandoned altogether.


Prime Minister Theresa May has utterly lamentably continued to refuse to take a no-deal Brexit off the table – thus declining to alleviate the fears of businesses and households – as she has delayed the next vote on her deal with the EU from this week to March 12 at the latest. John Bason, finance director of Associated British Foods, said this week it was “unbelievable” the UK was even contemplating leaving the EU without a deal. He is quite right.

But Mrs May has, in spite of the tantrums of Tory arch-Brexiters, at least given MPs the opportunity to vote to choose whether the UK should leave with no deal or whether Brexit should be delayed in the event that her agreement fails to receive Parliament’s backing this month.

There would surely not be a majority of MPs willing to take their constituents over the abyss into a recession which forecasters believe would be deeper than that in 2008/09 arising from the global financial crisis by voting for a no-deal Brexit.

So hopefully this week’s moves by Mrs May remove the danger of no-deal as the default option.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, after much humming and hawing, appears finally to have come round to the entirely sensible idea of another referendum on Brexit.

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Mr Corbyn told the House of Commons: “The Prime Minister’s botched deal provides no certainty or guarantees for the future and was comprehensively rejected by this House. We cannot risk our country’s industry and people’s livelihoods and so if it somehow does pass in some form at a later stage, we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel it is what they voted for.”

In the wake of these developments, sterling on Wednesday hit its highest level for 10 months against a basket of currencies, Bank of England data showed. It was yesterday trading close to $1.33, up from a pre-weekend close of $1.3066, having touched $1.3349 on Wednesday. The pound’s advance, whether arch-Brexiters like it or not, has been driven by massive relief that the prospects of a no-deal exit appear to have diminished significantly, and by higher hopes of a delay to, or even better an abandonment of, the planned exit from the EU. Weak UK economic prospects hit sterling, so anything that alleviates the country’s terrible troubles tends to help the pound.

The SNP continues to consistently make the sensible points about Brexit in Parliament, along with some committed Remainers in the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat ranks.

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, declared this week: “Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we must not be dragged out of the EU against our will. Remaining is by far the best deal of all – and it is the only way to protect jobs and living standards.”

It is good to hear such simple economic realities being stated – such a refreshing change from the ideological, antiquated and most importantly flawed declarations from the Brexit-loving European Research Group. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the ERG, gave his view this week that, if Brexit were being delayed as a “plot” to stop the UK leaving the EU altogether, “that would be the most grievous error that politicians could commit”.

In the real world, 24 per cent of Scottish consumers say their spending habits were affected by Brexit in 2018 and a further 22% expect to cut back this year, a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows.

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Labour MPs in Brexit-voting constituencies have taken umbrage at Mr Corbyn’s backing for a second referendum. This opposition seems rooted in the vacuous “will of the people” tripe spouted by Brexiters.

Those who continue to advance such arguments should look at the reality of the situation, if they really want to stand up for the living standards of their constituents.

You would need to have been living on the Moon not to have realised by now the vast distance of the Leave campaign’s arguments and promises in 2016 from reality. Brexiters promised a brave new world of trade deals, seemingly harking back to the glorious days of Empire. These have singularly failed to materialise, in spite of some expensive global glad-handing by the ruling Conservatives.

Meanwhile, the Brexit vote has already seen a large number of EU citizens, including the most skilled (and mobile) as well as many others making a crucial contribution, leave the UK to make their lives elsewhere. This is entirely understandable, given uncertainty over their future status here and the depressing mood of xenophobia in some parts of the UK.

Official figures yesterday showed immigration to the UK for work had fallen to its lowest since 2014, driven by fewer EU citizens coming here. And analysis by an expert panel advising the Scottish Government showed the Tories’ UK immigration plans could reduce the number of workers in Scotland by up to 5% over the next two decades. That would be a truly disastrous reduction for Scottish growth and living standards.

And the UK Government’s own forecasts have shown major damage to the economy under all Brexit scenarios. In terms of the no-deal option, this damage would include a very sharp and swift rise in unemployment. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney this week warned of the risks of a no-deal Brexit to the UK’s financial stability.

All of this shows Labour MPs in Brexit-voting areas, and Tories in the same position, need to look at what is actually good for their constituents’ living standards, which will, whether they like it or not, be dictated by economic reality and not ideology. They should be careful not to pander to the noisiest elements, which often include the xenophobes. Rather, they should do the right thing for the lives of the electorate as a whole.

It is the pursuit of Brexit, not the avoidance of it, which is the “grievous error”.