Three years after Brexit: how is the UK faring?

The UK's exit from the EU became effective on 31 January 2020. Commentators take stock three years on.

Open/close all quotes (DE) /

Labour's strategy is vague and damaging

ARD's London correspondent Annette Dittert criticises Labour leader Keir Starmer's attitude to Brexit on

“He promises to make the Brexit better, i.e. through a rapprochement with the EU, but without the prospect of rejoining the single market. He fails to mention that without the single market it will hardly be possible for the British economy to make a real recovery in the short and medium term. The tactic is clear: he wants to bring the left-wing Brexiteers, who defected to Johnson in droves in 2019, back into the Labour camp - a strategy for which the country will pay a high price, however. As long as not even the opposition is willing to clearly name the disadvantages of leaving the EU there will be no real solutions to the problems it has created.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

The dream is over

The Irish Independent voices sympathy with those who voted for Brexit in 2016:

“The voters were promised that as soon as Brexit was ratified, they would be able to regain control of their own borders and be able to properly restrict illegal immigration. None of this has happened. Where they were promised Brexit would usher them into the sunlit uplands, they now find themselves in a situation more like Mordor. These people had a dream - a dream of UK independence, of sovereignty and proud national self-determination free from European interference and the diktats of bureaucrats in Brussels. Well, it appears that dream is over.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A negative balance sheet - for both sides

NRC Handelsblad lists the unfulfilled promises:

“The promise that the millions going into the European budget would be used for British healthcare instead has not been fulfilled. ... After Brexit, Britain has had to make its own trade agreements with other countries, but their impact has been disappointing so far. ... Migration to the UK has not decreased as promised, but has actually increased. ... Overall, the balance sheet is negative, also for the EU countries by the way, which have lost an important partner in trade, defence and geopolitics. In fact, Brexit had only one positive effect: on the European continent, all enthusiasm for exiting the EU has plummeted.”

The New European (GB) /

Recognised as a mistake but no longer in focus

Since Rishi Sunak took office the debate over Brexit has become noticeably quieter, The New European notes:

“Sunak's cooler approach to government and his attempt to restore relations with Brussels is in keeping with a perception that Brexit is slipping from the electorate's list of immediate concerns. Polling for the think tank UK in a Changing Europe found that at the end of 2022 Brexit was not even in the top 10 issues that mattered to the British public. But there has also been a gradual and profound shift in public opinion, a change that No 10 must have noticed. ... Almost 60 percent now think that leaving the EU was wrong for the UK.”

The Sun (GB) /

Do more to sell a positive picture

Economically, Brexit is having a positive impact, The Sun believes:

“As we approach the third anniversary of Brexit, [Sunak's] government is announcing a new wave of investment opportunities. The Business Secretary, Grant Shapps, stresses that billions of pounds of investments have been unblocked since we broke free of Brussels three years ago. ... This is good news, but the Tories have to get their message across quickly and clearly if they are to convince voters fed up with a party mired in scandal and sleaze allegations. Rishi needs to sell a positive picture of a prosperous post-Brexit Britain, and then keep selling it with passion. ... To achieve it, the PM may have to uncork some of the can-do spirit of his predecessor.”

Les Echos (FR) /

The elephant in the room

British political parties are doing their best to avoid the issue, Les Echos observes:

“For now, Brexit is still the 'elephant in the room' that no one wants to mention. The Tories fear a strengthening of the EU-critical Reform UK party, heir to Nigel Farage's Ukip. Labour fears that it could permanently lose the support of workers, whose absence brought it a heavy defeat in 2019. It seems they are assuming that the battle in the next general election in 2024 will be fought exclusively in the 'red wall' areas, in the pro-Brexit constituencies in the disadvantaged north of England. But for how long?”