If Brexit had been cancelled a year ago after a genuine change of heart, the economic damage would have been minimal. It could even have been positive if people and companies had become more optimistic about the country’s future after seeing it overcome such a challenge.
I fear it’s too late now. The UK has waited far too long already. We’ve known for a long time that any form of Brexit will be bad – ranging from catastrophical (much worse than the last recession) if it’s a No-deal outcome, over dire if it’s May’s deal, to just moderately bad if it’s Norway plus Customs Union. However, I think Remain will now be bad, too, at least in the short to medium term.
That’s because the UK has lost so much goodwill. It has shown itself to be a xenophobic country with a post-imperialist hangover. Too many people and companies have already got their fingers burnt and will think twice before going near it again, and there will always be a lingering fear that the Brexiteers will resurface again at some point in the future. If somebody has relocated to the rest of the EU, why should they come back anytime soon?
It will require a lot of effort to get rid of the smell that Brexit will leave behind. And for all of that time, growth will be lower than it would otherwise have been. Lower growth will mean less income for the state, so there’ll potentially be more austerity coming, which could have dire consequences for the public sector and make the country even less attractive. It could become a vicious circle.
This doesn’t apply to Scotland, of course. The enormous Remain vote north of the border got noticed in the rest of the EU, and if we manage to get independence soon, it should be quite easy to distance ourselves from the madness down south, attracting lots of investments and immigrants in the process. Time is of the essence, though.
Independence is probably the best outcome for England, too, although I doubt it will be a quick and easy solution. Brexit was in essence an English idea, and they’ll need to decide where their future lies, whether it’s in Europe or elsewhere. That’s a discussion they need to have with themselves, and it would probably be easier if Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales didn’t get in their way.