Expert panel explore the government’s pursuit of Brexit opportunities

Watch back the full discussion from our virtual event - Exploring the government’s pursuit of Brexit opportunities, hosted by John Rentoul

Jon Stone
Thursday 07 April 2022 16:43 BST
Clockwise from top left: John Rentoul, Anand Menon, Jon Stone and Naomi Smith
Clockwise from top left: John Rentoul, Anand Menon, Jon Stone and Naomi Smith (The Independent)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Panellists struggled to identify major benefits of Brexit at an event hosted by The Independent on Wednesday evening.

The discussion was chaired by chief political commentator John Rentoul – who put questions from the audience about how Britain was dealing with the exit from the bloc.

Anand Menon, the director of think-tank The UK in a Changing Europe, reminded the audience that had Brexit not happened then David Cameron would have remained prime minister.

He said Brexit had at least aligned the UK's political conversation to "left behind" areas and that he doubted this would have happened to the same extent otherwise – one potential bright side.

And he went on to argue that he did not think a country the size of the UK would suit an arrangement like the European Economic Area – where it would be a rule-taker and have less say over its governance arrangements.

Naomi Smith, the chief executive of internationalist and pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, said Northern Ireland could have been one of the few places that made a success of Brexit because of its special arrangement giving access to both the EU and UK markets.

But this opportunity had been squandered by wrangling over the Northern Ireland protocol, she said, with businesses concerned about how durable the settlement was.

Jon Stone, The Independent's policy correspondent, noted that some of then problems of Brexit were specific to the politics of the Conservative party.

He argued that any other party would have been able to easily solve the situation of Northern Ireland – but that the Tories were ideologically and politically committed to avoiding obvious solutions like aligning with EU rules.

Stone also stated that it was hard to predict whether the UK would rejoin the EU or move to a closer relationship in the coming decades, claiming there were “too many variables”.

Exploring the government's pursuit of Brexit opportunities

Watch back the full discussion - Exploring the government's pursuit of Brexit opportunities - in the video above.

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