The bigshots in the British Foreign Office will, of course, not admit it. But it will soon be two years from the official date of the UK’s departure from the EU, and the much bragged about “we’ll be ever so much better outside than inside” situation is still lightyears away.
The biggest propaganda push all along those four years from when Parliament first voted for the country to leave, to when it actually left, was along the lines of the country negotiating so many “new” favourable trade agreements with non-EU member-states, that the dropped EU membership will hardly be missed.
The country now knows that such bragging has been a chimaera. As a kick-off point it must be said that there are so many countries that already have individual trade agreements with the EU states (and this perforce through the centralized controlling EU mechanisms) that in fact, such countries are very reticent to establish new arrangements with “that rebel naughty boy”.
At the height of exit negotiations, some sectors in the UK thought that they would easily manage to renegotiate new agreements with the EU such that – cheekiness personified – their situation would really be, after Brexit, a non-changed one. One such sector was the financial services sector. And not much time was lost from the EU’s part in making it clear to Britain’s City that there was no way that the UK could maintain, post-Brexit, similar levels of market access but from outside the single market structures. For the EU this was simply unacceptable… so it has remained… and so it is very clear that it will remain for the coming long time.
There were yes some countries that accepted to negotiate with the UK the possibility of it agreeing with the terms within some already existing – extra-EU – trading group. One such country was Australia which in 2018 said that it would welcome interest from Britain in joining the Trans-Pacific Regional Trading Partnership. New Zealand too was in the same open mood. But these and others, often ex-colonies, weren’t exactly falling head over heels in coming forward with generous offers. For British importing and exporting firms, and their various lobbying organisations, it has been a very hard upward struggle ever since.
There is no pleasure in having to say to the British electorate that they got it all wrong with Brexit. There is always the truth that when in an organization the best place for changing it for the better is from its inside and not from the outside. The EU has many faults, yes, but it certainly cannot be faulted for being “a trading failure”. Collectively its annual imports and exports continue to register ever greater growth, and more and more countries queue up to join the bloc first created in 1958 and now with a most important track record on the world stage. The UK made a big mistake by getting out, and it will be ruing it for a very long time yet.
Of course, not everybody agrees with that opinion.