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There was a massive elephant in the British House of Commons on Wednesday. It was rampaging back and forth across the chamber, overturning tables, loudly trumpeting and waving his trunk from side to side.

Its name was Brexit.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond did his level best to ignore the distinctly unfriendly pachyderm. In fact, he did not utter the B-word once during his 45-minute budget speech. But the Brexit elephant was as plain to see as the chancellor’s traditional red box.

Growth forecasts for 2017, said the Chancellor, have been upgraded from 1.4 to two percent. Employment forecasts are rosy, and predictions for government borrowing are down, down, down. The pound remains at rock bottom levels against the dollar, but the economy has not fallen off the cliff as some pro-European campaigners said it would do on the 24th of June.

But then Britain is still in the phoney war period. Article 50 has not been invoked. Details of the government’s negotiating position remain shrouded in mystery. Details of the European Commission negotiating position are a total enigma.

The markets, the banks and the investors on whom the British public rely for the pay checks that keep them in food, clothing and shelter are still playing the wait and see game. They would rather avoid the expense and bother of uprooting themselves from comfortable London bases.

So they are waiting. They are waiting for the end of March when Mrs May is due to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and start the negotiation ball rolling. They are waiting to see just how hard the hard ball is that is thrown out by the commission negotiators and Chancellor Merkel. They are waiting to see just what bribes and enticements Mrs May will offer foreign businesses to remain in Britain and foreign governments to sign quick trade deals.

Phillip Hammond is waiting too. And the former remain campaigner is saving his pennies because he believes that the picture of post-Brexit Britain will be considerably less rosy than that painted by his Brexiteering cabinet colleagues.

For that reason he is being raked over the coals for breaking an “ironclad” election promise not to raise taxes or national insurance. Instead he has substantially increased contributions from the growing army of the self-employed who have no job security, no maternity benefits, no employer pension contributions and no paid holidays.

Social services, the National Health Service and education are all under severe strain after seven years of austerity budgets. They received some more money in the Wednesday budget. But it was the bare minimum, and many would argue that it wasn’t even that.

The problem, as the chancellor pointed out, is that Britain has a $2 trillion debt—that is almost $70,000 for every for every household in the country. And with the uncertainty created by the Brexit elephant, “this is not the time,” as the chancellor said, for commitments to “more unfunded spending in the future.”

Phillip Hammond’s budget is not the only thing affected by the uncertainty of the Brexit elephant. The European Union touched almost every aspect of British lives—which, to be honest, was one of the main objections to it. But because of this, eight months after the referendum, the Brexit elephant and the debate over what comes next continues to cast a huge shadow over the entire country.

Because they are British they bottle it up, stiffen their upper lips and go about their daily business as if nothing happened on the 23rd of June. But they know that the uncertainty of the Brexit elephant is walking in lock step right next to them.

Tom Arms is editor of

5 Comments on "The Brexit Elephant"

  1. Uncertainty is a word bandied about freely when it comes to #brexit.

    No one so far had been able to shed a light on what uncertainty there would have been if the vote had gone the other way.
    We have had a gut full of uncertainty during the past 40 plus years.
    The state of our economy and other countries as well has all happened while we have been in the EU.

    So the elephant in the room is, what would we have been facing now if we had voted to stay in the EU?
    Forced adoption of the EURO?
    Forced quotas of immigrants from the EU?
    Ever closer union?
    Increased membership fees?
    Participation in the EU army?
    No ticket out.

    None of this was mentioned prior to the vote. It was all scare tactics and falsehoods to frighten the population into voting to stay.

    I for one am willing to pay the price for our freedom from the dictatorship that is the EU.

  2. dictatorship is a strong and emotive word word and one that is often thrown out by Brexiteers without bothering to back it up. Who is this dictator? Name him or her. Are you referring to the faceles Eurocrats? If you are then they are appointed (either directly or indirectly) by the elected representatives of the sovereign members through the various councils.
    Of course, there could be a closer link between the Eurocrats and the voters. But that would involve national parliaments ceding additional sovereignty to the directly elected European parliament. This is universally and jelously opposed by the national parliaments.
    But the fact remains, the EU is not and never has been a dictatorship and the claim that it is should be dismissed as a Brexiteering canard of fear.

  3. I do not believe many of us are are going about our daily business as if nothing happened on June 23rd. It is impossible to get away from talk of Brexit .I think it is unlikely that since June 23rd that Brexit has not been mentioned in the News. I watch BBC Question time regularly and I doubt there has been one programme over the last 9 months where it has not been talked about

    I agree with Lesley if we had voted to remain we would have had uncertainty, that is life and we would have been on a ride towards ever closer European integration and possibly been forced to adopt policies that may not have been in our best interests.
    We all know a momentous decision was made last June and the arguments for and against have been trotted out over and over and if anything people have become fed up with the same arguments spouted over and over.

    Politicians ultimately have led us to where we are now and gave the people the right to determine whether to remain or leave. A majority chose to leave and so yes the Chancellor may not have mentioned Brexit but both he and we know it’s a huge part of the direction we are now taking. Maybe he did not need to say the B word because the B word is now all around us

  4. The noisy elephant was never mentioned because the government is totally shambolic. May is hopeless and has no idea what she is doing. She lacks charm, charisma, humour and is so bland, without diplomatic or negotiating skills and I suspect that the Heads of EU governments could just dismiss her very easily and manipulate her so she will leave the EU with nothing at all for the UK. I bet they are laughing themselves silly as she is so utterly useless as are her very complacent MP’s all so smug and self-satisfied with no idea what they are doing. They do not dare say anything because they have nothing to say. God help us all!!

  5. As a public law lawyer I do not agree that the democratic deficit in the EU is a ” brexiteering canard of fear’. To my mind it is the greatest challenge the EU faces. Until Lisbon there may have been some basis for asserting that the Eu Commission is appointed by elected heads of government and therefore no democratic deficit arises when power is yielded to the EU. however given that since Lisbon and the surrender of a significant number of competencies ( or vetos) by nation states to the European Union there exists the real and actual possibility of a democratic wish of a nation state being overridden due to its inability to garner enough votes.

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