Blog: Incredibly, the Tories have squandered another year of Brexit – The Telegraph

It’s not often you get to see the penny drop live on air but that’s precisely what viewers of GB News were treated to this week. Hapless stand-in presenter Martin Daubney triumphantly prepared to reveal news of ongoing public support for Brexit following an exclusive Twitter poll conducted by the channel.

Instead, as a realisation dawned on the former editor of lads’ mag Loaded and anti-woke crusader that 55pc of respondents would in fact now vote against Brexit, he appeared to momentarily lose the power of speech.

The results would have been a particularly bitter pill for him to swallow given his previous exploits first as a Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands from 2019 to 2020, then as deputy leader of the Reclaim Party until August this year.

Of course, it is only one poll but with Brexit, two things seem increasingly clear: first, that appetite for the project is waning even among some formerly enthusiastic Brexiteers; and two, that the Tories still have next-to-no answers when it comes to making it work.

As we began the new year, I challenged our-then Prime Minister to prove to the people of this country – both Brexiteers and Remainers – that Brexit isn’t destined to become a historic failure. The Government had a year to fix Brexit otherwise it would have to be considered a failure, I suggested.

With Christmas suddenly looming, it only seems right to ask how far we’ve come since then, the answer to which is very obviously nowhere, despite a Cabinet pledge to “go further and faster” to maximise the opportunities of Brexit. Incredibly, it is now more than six years since the referendum and nearly two since our actual EU exit. Yet, there has been zero progress on any of the defining issues whether it is immigration, trade, red tape, or labour shortages. Life outside the EU simply hasn’t lived up to its billing.

Yet, what is most extraordinary about the whole situation is that blame for its failure cannot be attributed to “mutinous Remainers”. Brexit has turned out to be the dampest of squibs because this Government has repeatedly failed to deliver the benefits it insisted would be forthcoming. It is mostly down to woeful execution on the part of incompetent and politically impotent ministers.

The polling has been getting steadily worse for Brexit as this malaise has festered through 2022. Last week, a survey from YouGov suggests that public support for Brexit currently stands at an all-time low. Just 32pc of Britons believe it was right to leave and 56pc think it was wrong, the largest gap yet.

Further criticism has come from what Brexiteers might dismiss as the Remainer establishment. Blaming Britain’s departure from the EU for permanently damaging the UK economy, former Bank of England policymaker Michael Saunders claimed that Brexit was the ultimate reason for a fresh round of austerity.

Yet dissent is emerging inside the tent too, making it much harder to ignore. A free trade bonanza has not been unleashed, and even the flagship trade deal Britain struck with Australia has been rubbished by the Brexiteer former cabinet minister George Eustice.

Eustice criticised the agreement as not “a very good deal” for the UK because the Government “gave away far too much for far too little in return”.

Meanwhile, even Treasury minister Andrew Griffith found himself unable to name a single benefit in the Commons this week, having boasted that Brexit is “already delivering”.

And now, the Chancellor of all people, has dared to poke his head above the parapet only for it to be shot off by hardline Brexiteer MPs in the European Research Group, peddling a tired betrayal narrative.

Having admitted last week that Brexit had led to trade barriers, and that removing them would probably boost growth (a not-unreasonable assertion) Jeremy Hunt is widely suspected of being the source of a weekend story that claimed the Government is seeking a “Swiss-style” relationship with Brussels.

Yet, because such an arrangement could lead to a perceived loss of sovereignty through so-called alignment on food and agriculture standards, at least temporarily, it was promptly shot down by the Prime Minister at a conference hosted by business lobby group the CBI.

The UK will have to improve trade with Europe at some point, but if a Swiss deal is out of the question, then what is that Brexiteers want? Will the Tories continue to be beholden to ERG MPs? It may well be “the defining issue of why we are in politics,” as one was quoted as saying this week but many of them will almost certainly lose their seats at the next election.

The truth is that Tories are still riven with division, which makes it impossible to discuss anything that might improve the situation for business. And, even if they weren’t hopelessly divided, the elephant in the room needs to first be acknowledged for there to be any chance of a resolution.

Meanwhile, having spotted exactly where this is heading, Keir Starmer is outflanking the Government already so that soon he will be able to present himself as the only man who can do a better deal.

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