A doctor has combined healthcare with virtual reality to help put patients at ease. Dr Kevin Rafferty came up with the concept of combining a disposable
How would you explain Brexit to a teenager?
I would start by encouraging them to read FACTFULNESS by Hans Rosling. reality.is also available as an audio book. It examines how the human brain perceives the world, and explains why we sometimes get the wrong idea about
With an understanding of how we sometimes see things in much simpler terms than we should, I would then encourage them to read some history of European empires and the effect they have had on the world. Wikipedia is a good a source as any to get an overview.
Or more pertinently, watch the documentary film, The Spider’s Web which explains the importance of the conflict between the business model of City of London banking and the EU’s transparency legislation which threatens it if the UK stays inside the EU.
The UK government’s website contains a lot of solid information about Brexit
What is Brexit?
Brexit is the departure of the UK from the EU. It has come about as the result of a referendum held in 2016 that was won by a narrow majority (52:48) with a relatively large turnout of voters. The result has been contested for several reasons and is still a contentious subject, not least because:-
- The referendum question was general and did not specify many of the details necessary for its supporters to determine whether a government has complied with it.
- The referendum question was not accompanied by specific legislation or even an implementation plan – which has created conflict and uncertainty in the parliament and the community as the parliament is required to interpret the referendum result and implement a decision by passing many individual subsidiary laws for which there is no majority support in the parliament.
- The Leave campaigners were criticised for their use of social media to deliver targeted advertising in ways that were uncontrolled by electoral regulation in the UK, and the use of slogans and advertising that were alarmist and factually incorrect, and have been fined for funding irregularities.
- there is still significant conflict amongst the supporters of Brexit who struggle to build a majority support in the parliament and the nation for any single definition of an acceptable Brexit, and do not agree about the collateral damage they are willing to accept, or whether the risks identified by experts are real.
- The supporters of Remaining in the EU were less passionate than the supporters of Brexit, although that may be changing over time. As time goes on, it seems that the Remainers are growing in determination and numbers and the supporters of Brexit may be waning.
So, before you decide whether Brexit is right or wrong, it is worthwhile to understand why people are so divided about the issue.
Europhiles and Eurosceptics
There are entrenched minorities on both sides of the European debate:-
- Europhiles (people who support the mission of the EU, believe the UK should be committed to supporting the EU, and voted to Remain in 2016) and
- Eurosceptics (people who think the UK should never have joined the EU, it should leave the EU, that the EU will fail, and voted for Brexit in 2016).
Eurosceptism is an undercurrent in UK politics that has dogged parties on both sides of politics for generations. The same divisions have come to the surface repeatedly and destroyed or damaged the unity of governments of all colours since 1945.
Brexit may seem like a simple decision, but it is a very complex issue because of the many ways that it will impact the lives of everybody in the UK and many of the nations that surround the UK. Many different types of people have many different views about why Brexit should happen or not happen.
Remainers generally agree that Brexit is a bad idea and that either the UK should stay as a member of the EU as it was before 2016, or that it should continue as an EU member and that it should actively campaign within the EU for reform of the EU institutions to address the concerns of the supporters of Brexit (This position is described as “Remain and Reform”).
The range of people who support Brexit is also very diverse. But there is much less clarity about what they mean by Brexit – beyond simply ceasing to be a member of the EU.
Some want a hard Brexit – the UK to be completely free of the EU as soon as possible – even if that means the dissolution of the UK (a hard border with Northern Ireland and between England and Scotland), and major disruption for the people whose jobs and businesses rely upon trading across the open borders we have had for decades.
Some want a softer Brexit – a gradual separation starting with losing UK representation in the European Parliament, increasing independence for the UK to make different laws, standards and trade tariffs – changing gradually over a period of years. And there are many different positions between those two extremes. Some of the intermediate positions resemble the status of other EU affiliate nations such as Norway or Switzerland, and so have come to be described in terms such as “Norway +”
The common factor about all of these alternative versions of Brexit is that none of them has majority support in the nation or in the parliament. Brexit supporters generally want change but struggle to agree on what change they think is better than the status quo before 2016.
What does a Brexit supporter look like?
The root of the Brexit issue is the fact that humans tend to build their worldview whilst at school. They get their worldview from their teachers. That worldview persists until it is updated by real life experience. This means that people have very different worldviews according to their schooling and their life experiences.
This process is described in detail in Factfulness.
When we look at the way people see the world as they age it becomes apparent that most people regard the customs and technologies that existed during their childhood to be familiar and normal, and often remember it (as they get older) as being better than it actually was. We tend to believe that technologies and customs that became common during our late teens, 20’s and 30’s are fashionable and good. And customs and technologies that appeared when we are in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, most people consider to be suspect, potentially bad and should be resisted. This also impacts the way we feel about political change.
There are many other types of people who support Brexit for many different reasons. Some support Brexit because they just want change. Some because they want the UK to be independent of any foreign body. Some fear that the UK is in danger of being overwhelmed by foreigners or fear the EU will become a superstate (like the USA) that will conscript young people into an EU army at some time in the future.
Some want Brexit because they believe the UK should be free to make its own laws, be more open to trade and free movement of people from India and the members of the Commonwealth rather than European peoples.
These positions are often difficult to explain in detail and harder to support with evidence when you examine all the practical details of the changes necessary to make them happen. But many people hold beliefs on many subjects without the support of hard evidence. And everybody is entitled to their opinion.
Most people, when faced with a complex difficult decision, tend to pick one aspect that they feel strongly about, make a decision that seems to fit their experience and values, and then go looking for evidence to support their decision. Brexit is a very complex issue, and so it is easy for everybody to pick one aspect, and then assume that their view is right and others are wrong because other people chose to decide based on a different aspect. This means that many people find it difficult to discuss Brexit. It is like an apple lover insisting that apples are the best fruit (because they are crunchy) to an orange lover who insists oranges are best because they are juicy.
The common characteristics of many ardent Brexit supporters are:-
- Over ~60 years of age. These people grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War and were taught by teachers that experienced the war and the period before the war when Britain had a global empire and a high opinion of itself as a global financial, military and political power.
- Fearful of foreigners coming to the UK and wary of foreigners abroad.
- Relatively financially secure – incomes from pensions and savings, high rate of home ownership which makes them less worried about short term economic impacts.
- Alienated by many aspects of modern society – media technology, changing social norms (gay rights, etc.), globalisation.
- Flooded with alarming news and information from trouble spots all over the world resulting from an explosion in the number of news sources available on TV, internet, etc., that have been freed from the former legal requirements of editorial balance and impartiality that bound the regulated TV and radio networks.
The worldview of the ardent Brexit supporters is arguably outdated by the fact that Britain no longer has an empire, and is interdependent with its closest neighbours who are all members or affiliates of the EU. Outside the EU, the UK is a middle sized nation that punches above its weight in global politics because of its historical commercial networks. If the UK breaks up, England (with Wales) is a very small nation by itself – half the size of the UK, on the edge of Europe.
Surveys show that younger people tend to be more open to foreigners and cooperative and more inclined to support membership of the EU. As the older people die off, it is likely that the UK will become increasingly Europhile. If the 2016 referendum was run after January 2019, the result would probably go the other way because of the changing demographics. However, that does not change the fact that there are many people of all ages, income levels, occupations and backgrounds that are Eurosceptics.
Brexit has revealed a strong split in the UK political landscape that was not a dominant issue for most voters before 2016.
It is useful to understand why the nations of Europe have decided to create the EU and what benefits it promises.
Iterations of European Union
Many European leaders have tried to unite Europe over the centuries – usually violently, and often by imposing control so that they could centralise institutions, and extract wealth and resources.
The EU is the first European initiative that recognises the sovereignty of every nation without changing borders, whilst developing minimum standards that encourage trade and reinforce citizens’ rights. It is building democratic representative institutions that ensure large nations do not overwhelm small nations. It supports national languages and cultures (e.g. all proceedings of the EU are translated and published into every one of its member nations’ languages), and provides investment to improve infrastructure in under-developed regions of Europe (including neglected regions of England and Wales). EU members undertake to provide healthcare to all EU citizens and other forms of social welfare support.
The EU is a work in progress and is not perfect. It will evolve and is likely to achieve closer and more effective cooperation as its institutions mature. Brexit has promoted a conversation throughout Europe that has increased the resolve of EU members’ citizenry to protect and promote the aims of the EU. Many EU politicians have listened to the claims made by critics of the EU and responded with initiatives to improve its democratic accountability. Support for the EU is now at about 70% amongst voters throughout the EU.
Young people in Europe today have grown up in a period of unprecedented wealth, security, and peaceful prosperity in Europe.
Economic cycles persist. Periods of greater and lesser prosperity continue determined by cycles in the global economy and other major events. The difference since 1945 is that the nations of Europe have not gone to war with each other – wars that were formerly triggered every one or two generations by populist leaders who blamed their neighbours for their nations’ problems. Frequently those wars started over trade disputes (protectionism, tariffs, etc), border disputes or ethnic tensions (infringements of human rights). They usually ended with large numbers of dead, widespread destruction and long periods of chaos for the people living in the conflict zones. The conflict we have seen in the Middle East over the last few decades is the result of the divisions of the European empires after the two World Wars.
This long period of peace in Europe since 1945 has been made possible by the determination of the European peoples to end the cycles of international and ethnic conflicts that resulted in their countrymen killing each other and destroying each others’ homes repeatedly over the centuries.
The EU is the organisation that was created (initially by the Benelux countries, and later extended by other members joining) to initially provide mechanisms for settling disputes in major industries (coal, steel, etc) but has grown to become the dominant forum in which European nations settle their disputes, set minimum international standards, and coordinate their efforts to improve the lives of their citizens.
The EU is now one of the largest and wealthiest trading blocs in the world – large enough to deal on equal terms with the USA, China, and India. It is a mature economy with a relatively low population growth rate because its average citizen is relatively wealthy, its women enjoy medical care and rights to education and work, and all its people enjoy good infrastructure and government services in global terms. This means that it has a relatively low economic growth rate compared to other regions (Africa, India, China, etc.) that are rapidly coming up to European standards – places where birth rates are higher and women are less educated because health and public infrastructure is less developed and average incomes are lower.
These are all good reasons to support the EU. So why are all the Europeans so much more supportive of the EU, when the UK seems to be less convinced?
Why is Britain different?
Britain’s geography has ensured that it has not been invaded (since 1066). This gives its people the benefit of not having had their political structures destroyed by civil war or invaders for a very long period of time. This means that the UK has a political structure which is archaic in many ways (e.g. monarch, House of Lords, no written constitution, procedure defined by tradition rather than written law). And its people have not had to face the issues of international conflict at home in the modern age. The last war (1939–1945) cost the nation dearly in blood and treasure but did not result in invasion or cause the destruction of the UK political system. Most of the nations of the EU had to rebuild their government institutions after 1945 and had an opportunity to start from a blank sheet when designing the rules by which they operate.
The UK’s global trading and financial networks have supported the UK economy long after its political empire was lost. This is a mixed blessing. It has a very wealthy internationally mobile class living with a relatively poor insecure working class. It has been the centre of EU finance and one of the three largest centres of global finance. It has a disproportionately large service sector. It is still a relatively large manufacturing economy – the 8th largest in the world, but no longer has large heavy industrial sectors (steel making, ship building, etc.).
This high level of inequality creates opportunities but also creates great social tension. The 2009 banking system crash (the GFC) required governments all over the world to make spending cuts (austerity) in order to put resources into recapitalising their systemically important banks. The UK’s outsized banking sector required more support than the size of the population would suggest.
Most of the nations of the EU ensure that their children learn at least one other language at school. This means that most educated EU citizens generally are bi-lingual and many also speak English. The UK has the lowest rate of bi-lingualism in the EU. Many UK citizens consider that they should not have to learn a foreign language. This limits their understanding of other cultures and limits their foreign working opportunities to English speaking countries – mostly outside the EU. (As a teenager, you would be well advised to make the effort to learn at least one other language apart from English)
The recent long period of government austerity has accentuated the social tensions – especially for people who rely heavily upon government services that were cut to divert funds into supporting the banking sector. But arguably, those cuts went on for much longer than necessary because the 2009 crisis created an opportunity for the government to make many reforms that have increased the power of the wealthy and reduced job security, welfare support and educational opportunities for the poor.
This meant that a substantial component of the people who voted for Brexit, did so out of protest, and with the hope of creating change, but without knowing whether that change would actually improve anything.
The supporters of the Brexit party are arguably doing the same – voting as an act of protest – voting for a party with no positive vision of the future or comprehensive policy platform other than to blame the EU for our problems and insist on destruction of the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Why is Brexit difficult?
The UK has been a member of the EEC and then the EU for more than 40 years. Freedom for EU citizens has become the norm. Many aspects of UK political, legal and commercial life have become intimately entwined in relationships with the EU and European organisations.
During that time, the government has agreed to several changes to the treaties (agreements between governments) that set out the legal basis of the existence of the EU. Some Eurosceptics consider that the government should have no ability to make treaties with foreign governments that grant law making powers to foreign bodies. The treaties have been ratified by the parliament so that they have become the law of the UK. In many ways the treaties that form the EU are like the many other treaties with the United Nations and many other international organisations that create the legal framework for international cooperation that translates into laws that regulate the lives of people and businesses in the UK. The major differences are that the EU has a much wider scope and covers many other areas of law; and the EU is the only foreign treaty organisation that contains a parliament comprised of democratically elected representatives from the UK and all other European nations.
The European Parliament has made many decisions about standards and other laws which are communicated to all the EU member nations in the form of directives. Each member nation then gives effect to the directives by passing laws through their democratic law-making processes to make the directives into the law of each EU member nation. By this process there are many national laws that are virtually identical throughout the EU. This makes it easy for businesses to trade with each other and for citizens to travel throughout the EU knowing that many aspects of the commercial and legal systems are similar.
Disputes between EU citizens that cannot be settled in one country may be referred to the European Court of Justice which has one judge from each member nation. This provides an impartial tribunal that every member of the EU can respect because its decisions will be impartial and will not favour any single nation. Some Eurosceptics consider that British people should not have to be subject to the jurisdiction of any court outside the UK. They describe Brexit as “taking back control”. Remainers wonder whether it is fair and realistic to expect to live in a community of nations, and trade with others in that community, but insist that you will only obey your own rules and comply only with decisions of your own national courts, and expect everybody else to also comply with your own national courts’ decisions.
One of the most important concepts that underpins the European Union is the “Four Freedoms”.
This is the idea that European citizens should have:-
- Freedom of movement – freedom to travel and work in any EU member nation provided they comply with its laws.
- Freedom of capital – freedom to send their money to any bank in any other member nation without interference by the government, allowing them to trade or invest where they choose.
- Freedom of movement of goods – so that they can buy and sell goods freely throughout the EU without being required to pay taxes to move goods across the borders.
- Freedom of services – so that they can buy and sell services throughout the EU.
These freedoms have been enjoyed by citizens of the UK within the UK for more than 300 years since England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland became the United Kingdom.
The freedoms of capital and services have meant that many businesses from Asia, Americas, etc. (such as car manufacturers, banks, insurance companies and airlines) have established head offices and factories in the UK so that they can supply customers and do business throughout the EU without having to establish offices in countries where English is a foreign language. If the UK leaves the EU, those companies will have to move their businesses to other EU nations or pay tariffs on their products that they export to the EU, and be restricted in the services they can offer to other EU customers. This means a big loss of jobs and business for the UK, a big loss of tax revenues for the UK government and will make some industries rethink how they do business in the UK. Many businesses have already moved some of their staff out of the UK or announced that they will have to close their UK offices if the UK does not stay inside the Customs Union or maintain a Free Trade Agreement with the EU immediately after Brexit. A No Deal Brexit means that it may take several years before there is an agreement between the UK and the EU, and during that time many UK businesses could be bankrupted and many jobs lost because they cannot trade as easily or at all.
The freedom of movement means that employers can recruit staff from anywhere in the EU. Other EU nations provide education and training free of charge to the citizens whereas the UK now charges relatively high fees for university education, and has reduced the money it spends on vocational and trade training for its citizens. Eurosceptics say that this means employers can recruit staff from countries where trained workers are desperate for jobs, and that they can pay low wages and offer poor conditions, and that local UK workers will then have to compete for the jobs and their wages will be forced down.
This sounds logical, except that there are laws that require employers to pay minimum wages and offer minimum conditions of employment. This should mean that bad employers should be forced to pay proper wages and provide proper conditions. But this system only works if the government inspectors enforce the laws and fine the employers, or the workers are allowed to organise themselves into unions, or the employees who have grievances can complain to an employment tribunal.
During the last decade of austerity the UK government has cut funding for UK education and training institutions so that UK citizens must pay for their own education or borrow money from the government and pay it back later. The UK government dismissed many inspectors so that there are not enough people to enforce the employment (and many other) laws. The government tried to increase the fees charged by employment tribunals to high levels that meant workers could not afford to file complaints (until the courts forced them to reduce the fees). The government has cut the funding for legal aid making it harder for poor people to get legal assistance to enforce their rights. And the government has made it more and more difficult for workers to form unions and organise themselves to fight for their rights. All these changes mean that it has been easier for employers to force down wages, reduce conditions and move many workers onto zero hours contracts and other insecure forms of employment. There has been a significant increase in the numbers of “working poor” in the UK – people who have a job or several jobs, but cannot make enough money to pay for housing and buy food for their families and have a decent secure life.
Some UK workers have blamed competition from foreigners for these changes rather than realising that they are mostly the result of UK government policy. The EU has issued directives that protect workers’ rights, but the UK government has opted out – insisting that UK workers should not have those protections and UK employers should not have to offer those conditions to their employees. Since Brexit, many EU workers have left the UK. This means that the unemployment rate is low and employers are struggling to find enough trained workers. But this situation may not persist forever. And many businesses have already relocated out of the UK.
Other EU countries have a system of identity cards so that every citizen is registered with the government. This allows the government to know who is entitled to government benefits and can easily identify foreigners and ensure that they are only given what they are legally entitled to receive. The UK government has resisted calls for this sort of system. This means that it is very difficult to track who is in the UK claiming benefits and there are often claims by Eurosceptics that there are large numbers of benefit claimants in the UK that are not entitled to receive benefits and that they should be deported – something that is very difficult as EU citizens have the right to freedom of movement. EU rules allow governments to deport people back to their home nations if they are not able to find work and housing, but enforcing those rules is unpopular and requires manpower that the government is unwilling to pay for. The Eurosceptics say they want a points based system so that the government can control who comes into the country and who is allowed to stay and work. This sounds sensible, except that it is very difficult to stop tourists from coming and overstaying their tourist visas if there is no system of registration that requires people who stay to register or be deported.
The UK already trades with many nations outside the EU, but EU rules mean that it must impose tariffs on some goods that come into the UK – whether they are intended to be used in the UK, or moved on to other EU nations. Brexit supporters say that the UK should be free to set its own tariffs and make its own rules about standards and control of goods. Remainers say that it is much easier and better to maintain common standards so that manufacturers sending goods into the EU and the UK (such as from China or India) will have a common set of standards to comply with instead of being required to comply with different standards for the UK. It may be that some manufacturers in the UK and other countries will choose to make goods to comply with EU standards because the EU is a large market. This will mean that after Brexit, UK manufacturers will have to meet EU standards to compete. But because the UK will lose its seats in the EU parliament, UK manufacturers will have no ability to influence how the standards are set.
The freedom to move goods means that there are very few border checks on trucks and ships moving goods between the UK and other EU member nations. The Customs Union that exists throughout the EU means that every government agrees to impose the same taxes on goods that are imported into the EU, but that there will be no taxes or controls imposed on goods that are moved between member nations. This means that the Northern Irish border – the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (another EU nation) doesn’t look like a border if you walk along it. The Good Friday Agreement that settled the troubles in Ireland (and stopped soldiers and civilians from killing each other) prohibits the UK and Irish governments from erecting any border inspection points or controls along that border. This is sensible because the border is badly defined, goes through towns, villages, farms and even through people’s properties in some places, making it impossible to guard without disrupting the lives of millions of people who cross the border every day. If the UK leaves the EU, it will be legally necessary (under the World Trade Organisation Rules) for taxes to be imposed on goods crossing the border. And without freedom of movement, it will be necessary to check the passports of every person who crosses the border to ensure that they are not avoiding the immigration controls that the Brexit supporters want to impose. This is likely to lead to bloodshed in Ireland. And it will mean delays and a lot more inspections and administrative controls on goods that travel between the UK and France, the Netherlands, and every other EU country. Some people say there are technologies coming in a few years that will avoid having a hard border, but the reality is that there is no practical solution available now, and some people believe that there never will be a feasible solution to this problem.
Scotland is part of the UK and the border with England is only important for administrative purposes. There are no border control posts. Nobody is required to show a passport or even stop when they cross the border. If Scotland left the UK – as the SNP has threatened – there would have to be a closed border between England and Scotland. This would cause many problems.
There are many different forms of proposed Brexit that differs by the degree of separation and the extent to which the UK must comply with EU rules and pay EU membership fees. There is no majority agreement in the parliament and the community for any one of them. This makes it very difficult to proceed with Brexit because there is no agreement about what change should be made, and no clear justification for making any particular change as every change necessarily has costs and risks.
You can see that Brexit sounds like a simple idea, but in fact, because the UK has been an EU member for more than 40 years, Brexit is a very complex set of issues with many unforeseen problems. The Remainers generally feel that Brexit is not worth the costs and risks and that the UK will be much better off staying within the EU and finding other ways to resolve the complaints of Eurosceptics. Some of the people who support Brexit think that these problems are not important, or that the nation should be willing to endure them for the benefits of “taking back control” from the EU. On balance it is difficult to see what additional control we are taking back and whether it is worth all the additional risks, costs and hassles.
What does Brexit mean for the future?
Brexit is a critical juncture. Many aspects of the nation’s future depend upon how Brexit is handled.
For many people in the UK, they will probably think that the EU has no impact on their lives and in or out makes no difference. But the effects of EU membership and how it changes, will impact the value of the pound internationally, prices of almost everything we spend our money on, including interest rates, the inflation rate and prices of food and drink, rent and the majority of products we buy that are imported or rely upon components and inputs that come from abroad.
When the 2016 result was announced, the value of the pound dropped significantly and many European people living in the UK suddenly felt unwelcome. Many people who were born in other EU countries but living in the UK because they are married to UK suddenly realised that their entitlements to pensions, healthcare, and many other benefits would terminate or change substantially. The same realisation dawned for many UK citizens living in other EU countries because they are working or have family relationships abroad.
Many staff working in the NHS realised that their pension entitlements in their own countries relied upon the UK remaining an EU member. This gave them a very strong reason to look for jobs in other EU countries and not extend their contracts with the NHS. This has become a major problem for the NHS because it employs large numbers of staff who are not originally UK citizens.
Many businesses who sold goods and services from the UK into other EU countries have found that EU customers have refused to extend contracts or continue buying from them. This is partly because small traders rely heavily upon the certainty that the jurisdiction of the ECJ gives them – knowing that disputes can be easily resolved at low cost with the certainty of a single set of rules as they find at home. This impact is not experienced as a single event, but rather as a slow bleeding of business away from UK firms in favour of their EU competitors.
Calling a referendum (such as 2016) with a vaguely defined question and answers, without first developing a comprehensive implementation plan, raised unachievably high expectations. It allowed populists to interpret the result in any way that suited them. It forced the parliament to start to implement a plan that it could not define clearly enough to translate into law, because of the large number of subsidiary issues and fundamental problems that it has revealed.
The uncertainty about what form of Brexit will be ultimately delivered has discredited the government, created significant uncertainty in the country, tensions with neighbouring governments, and conflict in the parliament. The uncertainty of the future is a significant reason for investors to postpone investment or invest elsewhere in places where conditions are more predictable.
Britain has been, and could still be, a leading nation in the EU if Brexit was reversed (by revoking Article 50) and British political leaders chose to embrace the EU mission. But that is not the current direction.
Britain’s political leaders are currently arguing over how Britain can withdraw from the EU without collateral damage to the unity of the UK, causing job losses and business failures for substantial portions of its business community, and straining relations with the EU members around its borders. The EU nations have offered a withdrawal agreement that protects the integrity of the EU single market, but includes provisions that many MPs find unacceptable.
Parliament is deadlocked because it is struggling to find a way of preserving its own democratic legitimacy whilst satisfying the “will of the people” knowing that there are no good answers, that every route out of the quagmire has significant costs and risks, and the benefits of all the obvious paths forward are not clearly defined or well understood.
Getting it wrong could mean many decades of a poorer, marginalised Britain and the breakup of the UK.
Getting it right could mean almost anything that you want to believe it to mean according to what you think Brexit means, but will almost certainly not be better than the pre-2016 status quo for some time.
Alternatively, it could mean a bright period of economic growth with lower food prices and free trade with the nations outside Europe. But first we have to get through problems of implementing Brexit. And that has turned out to be much more difficult than expected.