One of the many ridiculous arguments put forward by the Brexiters, either side of the 2016 referendum, was that European Union membership was being championed by an out-of-touch political elite.

There was of course no actual sign that supporters of EU membership were in any way out of touch – at least on this issue. The benefits of being part of the world’s largest free trade bloc and free movement of people between the UK and European Economic Area were, after all, a simple matter of logic.

However, nearly seven years on from the Brexit vote, we now certainly do have politicians, elite or otherwise, who are most definitely out of touch on the burning European issue.

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Last week Sir Keir Starmer promised his party would “embrace” the “Take Back Control” message of Brexit, in a speech in which he appeared to hang on to the coat-tails of former Boris Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings. This somewhat bizarre stance surely showed just how far out of touch the Labour leader is with the current public mood on the UK’s exit from the EU, and it was difficult to draw a distinction between Sir Keir and Conservative Cabinet members on this front.

It also threw into stark relief the yawning gulf between what seems to be going through the minds of politicians and the economic reality of the situation. It is a most curious state of affairs. In the case of Sir Keir, it is particularly astounding given he was one of the loudest voices putting forward rational arguments against Brexit back in 2019.

Of course, last week was not the first time that Sir Keir had proclaimed his volte-face on Brexit. However, it did seem to represent something of a doubling-down. And, given the very large majority against Brexit in Scotland back in 2016 even before the inevitable damage of the Leave vote began to crystallise in spectacular style, it was no surprise to hear the Scottish Greens ask Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to distance himself from Sir Keir’s Brexit support.

While Sir Keir has been holding forth on his relatively recently found passion for Brexit, the polls have been showing the UK electorate is increasingly realising leaving the EU was a big mistake. Meanwhile, new economic surveys continue to highlight the damage being done by Brexit at an overall and individual company level. And the Bank of England’s chief economist, Huw Pill, has this week highlighted the “challenges” arising from Brexit, noting the hit to trade and the impact on the labour market.

One survey last week revealed that increasing numbers of potential customers in the EU are shunning trade with the UK.

S&P Global and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, in their latest survey of the UK manufacturing sector, noted: “Domestic and overseas demand remained lacklustre, as clients faced rising costs, increased market volatility and, in the case of EU-based clients, Brexit-related complications…

“The main driver of lost export contracts was weak global economic conditions, while there was also mention of Brexit-related issues, such as shipping delays and higher costs, leading some EU clients to source products elsewhere.”

Rob Dobson, director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, observed weakness in the key EU market “is still being exacerbated by the constraints of Brexit, as higher costs, administrative burdens and shipping delays encourage increasing numbers of clients to shun trade with the UK”.

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John Glen, chief economist at CIPS, said of the UK manufacturing sector’s December performance: “New orders dropped at one of the fastest rates in over a decade as overseas customers were put off by Brexit customs requirements pushing up costs and delays and domestic orders were affected by the general pressure from rising prices.

This knock-on effect meant that manufacturing companies shed more jobs, reducing their operational capacity for work that never materialised at a time when they still struggled to find the right skills and regain normality over their businesses.”

Of course, the Brexit chaos is affecting all sectors, and companies of all sizes within them.

Publishing its latest quarterly economic survey last week, British Chambers of Commerce noted a micro-retailer in Norfolk had declared: “We are still suffering from the pretty much total loss of our European export trade. This is directly as a result of Brexit and shipping difficulties, including factors such as double duty payments. This has reduced turnover by 50%.”

Analysing factors underlying monetary policy decisions, Mr Pill said in a speech in New York on Monday: “Brexit weighed on UK trade with continental Europe, also serving to disturb supply chains and weaken competitive pressure on UK producers.”

He added: “Brexit may also have weighed on labour supply. While aggregate levels of immigration into the UK remain elevated, the loss of flexibility associated with the end to free movement of EU workers into the UK may have steepened the Phillips curve, as post-Brexit immigration has proved less effective in addressing labour market mismatches and more costly for employers.”

The Phillips curve is based on an economic model that there is an inverse relationship between unemployment and inflation.

Sir Keir, for his part, declared in his new year speech last week: “As I went around the country, campaigning for Remain, I couldn’t disagree with the basic case so many Leave voters made to me.”

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And the Labour leader, who in summer 2022 trumpeted his revised “Make Brexit Work” stance, declared last week: “It’s not unreasonable for us to recognise the desire for communities to stand on their own feet. It’s what ‘Take Back Control’ meant. The control people want is control over their lives and their community. So we will embrace the ‘Take Back Control’ message. But we’ll turn it from a slogan to a solution. From a catchphrase into change.

“We will spread control out of Westminster. Devolve new powers over employment support, transport, energy, climate change, housing, culture, childcare provision and how councils run their finances.

“And we’ll give communities a new right to request powers which go beyond this.”

He added: “All this will be in a new ‘Take Back Control’ Bill – a centrepiece of our first King’s speech. A Bill that will deliver on the demand for a new Britain. A new approach to politics and democracy. A new approach to growth and our economy.”

In terms of the “new approach” to democracy comment, Sir Keir might want to reflect on the recent Brexit opinion poll findings.

A poll of 2,000 people by Opinium on behalf of “internationalist campaign group” Best for Britain, published on Sunday, showed 57% of people who were asked think Brexit has created more problems than it has solved, with only 10% believing the opposite.

And, of those asked who intend to vote Conservative at the next UK general election, people sceptical of Brexit now outnumber those willing to defend the departure from the EU, with 33% saying Brexit has created more problems compared with 22% saying it has solved more. Best for Britain noted this was the first time this had happened.

Going back to Sir Keir’s words, Brexit most certainly represents a “new approach to growth and our economy”.

It is an approach which is holding back the economy, choking off growth, and damaging living standards, and will continue to do so. And the last thing anyone should do is “embrace” it.