The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) used his conference speech today to call for a tilt in immigration policy, to reflect the fact that the UK actively needs people to move here if we are ever to see a return to prosperity. There were rumours, meanwhile, of a “Swiss-style” deal between the UK and the EU, in which we would slowly reconverge with the single market, via harmonised regulations around food and agriculture.
The puzzle pieces are cohering into one picture: things are bad. Some people would like to continue arguing about root causes, arranging Brexit, Covid and the sheer fecklessness of modern Conservatism into an infinitely contestable hierarchy, but most people would just prefer things to be better. And the “how can things be better?” phase of the arc comes right before “any mistake that can be undone, let’s try to undo it”.
So of course the Brexit fundamentalists have had to shake their rage back awake, it would be almost rude if they didn’t. Nigel Farage would consider a return to frontline politics, if the harmonisation went ahead; Bill Cash and Peter Bone would be furious; Jacob Rees-Mogg would find it absurd. In the all-too-recognisable Leaver register – fury coated in drawling contempt – the Brexiters told Rishi Sunak where he could stick his plans for future trade and Downing Street responded in its own recognisable way, disowning the Swiss rumours immediately. Who needs negotiated compromise, when you could have all that control you took back, instead?
But if that government capitulation reminds you a lot of 2017, and all the years in between, that’s because it hasn’t caught up with the mood music. The majority of Britons now think Brexit was a bad idea. It’s not a “resounding” or “overwhelming” ratio, such as 52:48. Just a regular old majority: 56% think we were wrong to leave the EU, and 32% think we were right, according to the latest YouGov poll. Until something good happens related to Brexit, or, indeed, related to anything, this is an irreversible trend which won’t stop until it hits zero: no people at all who think Brexit was a good idea, no one who’ll even admit they voted for it. Enjoy the after-party, Brexit hardcore, this might be the last time your fury gets results, or even gets reported.