I have refrained from much commentary about Brexit as thinking about it is depressing, but I cannot let the 31st of January 2020 pass without a few sincere but inevitably acerbic remarks about this monumental folly.

Brexit is a national stupidity of epic proportions, a betrayal viewed with ineffable sadness by millions of us in the UK. The Brexit decision was based on an ill-informed polemic, duplicitously propounded by an unsavoury self-serving polity that constructed a populist but ultimately and tragically effective programme of subversion and highly dubious democracy. Brexit, which betrays our youngsters and impoverishes their future, is steeped in mendacity, misdirection, manipulation and mischief. The whole of this shabby episode tarnishes our country’s reputation and hurts our EU friends and partners.

This does not mean there are not problems within the EU. There are and always will be but we should be there at the heart of it helping to solve them collaboratively to forge a bright and better future together

It is worth recalling some of the advantages we had through being members of the EU – so many benefits (and this is not an exhaustive list) acting synergistically and without any downsides. We do not yet know how many of these will survive Brexit: many will not change greatly for the transitional year, some may survive after that, but many will surely not:


Membership of the largest trading bloc in the world and our biggest export market with no tariffs (and represented together with the EU at the World Trade Organisation) which supports a larger real economy and lowers the general cost of living; 

In the EU we had no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market;

We had a much greater voice on the world stage;
The EU made travel easier and cheaper for us and reduced mobile roaming charges;
The EU boosted our economy through free movement of people;
The EU has established unparalleled rights for consumers, better product safety and improved food labelling;
The EU breaks up monopolies;
The EU provides patent and copyright protection;
The EU provides community-wide financial regulation;
The EU have established the regional development fund which has aided the deprived parts of Britain;
The EU banned credit card surcharges;
The EU increased workers' rights (the 47-hour working week, paid holidays, maternity and paternity leave, equal opportunities, the temporary agency workers Directive);
Licensing hours were made more sensible;
The EU passporting rights for financial services meant all member states could access the City.

Social, Professional and Academic

The EU have helped bring a lasting peace to Europe;
Only within the EU did we share freedom and rights to work, live and retire in any of the member states;
With EU citizenship, we had the right to consular protection and assistance from a diplomatic mission of any other EU country;
As tourists in any member state, the EU gave us free medical assistance and there was automatic transfer of medical insurance (National Insurance) to whichever country in which an EU citizen needed treating;
The EU compensated us as passengers if we suffered air travel delays;
Our driving licences were recognised by the EU and we had easy, bureaucracy-free  travel throughout the member states;

Through Erasmus and other schemes, the EU fosters the free exchange of science and other disciplines and their students within its member states;

The professional qualifications of lawyers, architects, scientists, medics and others were generally recognised, allowing professionals to practise throughout the EU. 

The EU facilitates and funds global policies to deliver biodiversity protection and net gain, fight climate change and species extinction and protect ecosystem services, work which had significant UK input;
The EU provided international security, greater co-operation between member states (arrest warrant, Europol);
With the EU we shared counter-intelligence;
The EU recognise and help protect minority languages such as Irish, Welsh and Catalan;
The EU champion human rights, multiculturalism and tolerance; the right to life; the right to a fair trial; the right to be forgotten;
The EU help Europeans understand their shared values;
The EU implement travel bans on the worst tyrants across the member states;
The EU give twice as much aid to developing countries as the USA;
The EU were instrumental in helping to achieve peace in Northern Ireland;
The EU have facilitated transfer of pension contributions from one state to another.

No-one has yet produced any significant evidence-based arguments for leaving the EU – not unless you believe in unicorns anyway, and I do not. Listing the imperfections and disagreements the EU has, as some have done to try to support their thesis that the UK’s exit is a “benefit”, is delusional and contorted thinking. 

The gloating talk of “celebrating” Brexit, issuing a memorial coin and suchlike is offensive. Almost half the UK voted to remain in the EU (in truth, it was probably more than half but the figures are shrouded in manipulation, likely outside interference, dubious funding and as yet unprosecuted criminality). Some 200 recent polls show a majority for remain, yet the sensible proposition, supported by some of the biggest marches ever seen, of a confirmatory vote to settle the matter has been denied – many would say subverted. Who will forgive our loss of citizenship, ridicule around the world, the end of free movement, the economic pain, the demise of the European vision of our former but wiser governments and politicians? Ultimately very few, I wager.

Now the new UK government “own” Brexit, so we shall see what we shall see. It is the youngsters who will sort this out in due course, supported by many of us oldies. In the interim however, though I am stepping back, Betts Ecology will continue to support the EU wholeheartedly and will uphold and build upon the environmental and ecological excellence that the EU has done so much to develop and foster, exemplified in such instruments as the Birds, Habitats and Water Framework Directives and the LIFE and Natura 2000 programmes. We at Betts “are with EU” and will remain so. We have no time for Brexit or its proponents and will support every initiative to reverse it. 

A chapter closes here for me as I am handing over executive function this year.

Christopher Betts     31 January 2020.

 © Betts Ecology