Brexit Self-harming and Its Aftermath

Sam Vaknin

North Macedonia (Brussels Morning Newspaper), In clinical psychology, the behavior is known as self-defeat, self-harm, or self-destructiveness. In the annals of the European Union (EU), it is known simply as Brexit.

On January 30, 2020, following years of arduous negotiations often bordering on extortion on both sides, the United Kingdom have exited the EU.

In 2016, in a referendum unwisely called by David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister at the time, about half of Britons (51%) voted for this act of self-immolation, spurred by nationalist populism and anti-elitism.

How did Britain fare in the wake of Brexit?

Hard to tell. Global disruptions to supply chains, investments, and consumption owing to COVID-19, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and climate change have utterly distorted the gathering of data and have rendered statistics doubtful.

In the UK, the economy grew by 4.1% in 2022 and succeeded in matching EU growth rates in 2023 and 2024, according to provisional figures. The ONS (Office for National Statistics) chronicled a recovery from the pandemic: by September 2023, economic activity was 1.5% higher than prior to the global cataclysm.

This is comparable to France, considerably more than Germany’s, and dismally lower than the likes of Japan, let alone the USA. The Brexit gamble did not pay off in terms of enhanced growth and FDI: the UK is still tethered to the continent, economically at least.

The figures are profoundly misleading, though. Inflation in the UK ratcheted up to 10% in 2022. Exports to the EU have declined, subjected as they are to new bureaucratic impediments.

Unencumbered by EU red tape and veto power, the UK signed bilateral trade agreements with Australia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But this is a far cry from the grandiose promises of the economically illiterate promoters of Brexit. Negotiations with the likes of Canada and India – far more relevant trade partners – seem to languish.

A country’s currency is the best gauge of its crowdsourced monetary, fiscal, and trade health. The British Pound stood at 1.40 to the euro in 2015. It is now trading at c. 1.15. Enough said.

Such precipitous decline is supposed to encourage exports (which it hasn’t) and domestic consumption (which it has, having rendered ever more expensive imports far less affordable).

Migration was a main point of contention between the UK and the more lenient EU. It is ironic, therefore, that migration actually surged and has reached new highs post-Brexit.

According to the venerable newspaper Le Monde, the flow of incomers doubled after Brexit, to 682,000 people between June 2022 and June 2023.

To make matters worse, a net 330,000 qualified personnel abandoned the splendidly isolated isles, creating labor shortages and inflationary pressure on wages.

Newly instituted border controls between the UK and the EU adversely affect both tourism and mobile workers, for example in the critical finance industry.

Short on friends in the continent, having negotiated Brexit in bad faith, the UK is turning even more emphatically to its former colony, the United States.

About three-fifths of Britons now regard Brexit to have been a disastrous mistake. Only 30% still support it. Even its most ardent proponents, though, admit that the benefits of the maneuver will accrue only in the long run.

The EU, in the meantime, has rid itself of an abusive and intractable partner reminiscent of Hungary. It has been functioning more smoothly ever since, gradually reverting to its original charter as a free trade pact.

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Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. is a former economic advisor to governments (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, North Macedonia), served as the editor in chief of “Global Politician” and as a columnist in various print and international media including “Central Europe Review” and United Press International (UPI). He taught psychology and finance in various academic institutions in several countries ( )