Why Brexit is bad for the UK
Brexit was supposed to be a moment of liberation and opportunity for the UK, but instead it has turned out to be a costly and damaging mistake. Since leaving the EU single market and customs union at the start of 2021, the UK has faced a series of economic and social challenges that have eroded its prosperity and influence.
One of the most obvious impacts of Brexit has been on trade. The new barriers and bureaucracy imposed by Brexit have disrupted the flow of goods and services between the UK and its largest trading partner, the EU. This has resulted in higher costs, lower revenues and reduced competitiveness for many businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones. According to official figures, UK exports to the EU fell by 13% in 2021 compared with 2019, while imports from the EU dropped by 22%. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that Brexit will reduce UK GDP by about 4% in the long term, while Covid-19 will reduce it by another 2%.
Another impact of Brexit has been on migration. The end of free movement has made it harder for EU citizens to live and work in the UK, and vice versa. This has created labour shortages in key sectors such as health care, hospitality, agriculture and logistics. The government has tried to address this by issuing temporary visas to some workers, but this is not enough to fill the gaps or retain skills. The loss of EU workers has also reduced tax revenues and consumer spending, putting further pressure on public finances and economic growth.
A third impact of Brexit has been on society. Brexit has divided the country along political, regional and generational lines. It has also damaged relations with neighbouring countries and weakened the UK's role in global affairs. One of the most serious consequences of Brexit has been its effect on Northern Ireland's status within both markets, creating new frictions over trade and identity that threaten peace and stability.
Brexit is bad for the UK because it has made it poorer, less open and more isolated than before. It has failed to deliver on its promises of sovereignty, control and prosperity. It has undermined trust in democracy and institutions. It has wasted time and resources that could have been used to tackle more urgent problems such as Covid-19 recovery or climate change mitigation.
Brexit is not irreversible - there are still ways to rejoin or re-engage with Europe - but it will take political courage, public support and diplomatic skill to do so.