The whole Brexit debacle was almost like having one of those horrid, lingering viral coughs. You know, the kind you just can't seem to shake off no matter how hard you try. Regardless of what we do or where we go a viral cough is always there niggling, irritating and deeply infuriating. Just like Brexit was for years on end. Usually in the sphere of politics, today's issues are wrapping up tomorrow's fish & chips. But Brexit, well, it just lingered.

The treatment? Brexit was supposed to be sorted by the actual referendum itself, was it not? A sort of kill or cure job that ended all the pesky symptoms once and for all? It wasn't outwardly all that difficult (or at least it shouldn't have been) because despite everything, the Brexit vote offered a binary choice. It was either in or out, leave or remain, however you chose to put it. At the end of the day, there was only ever going to be one winning side in all of this (or arguably two losing ones). That, sadly, is just democracy; there are invariably winners and there are those who didn't win.

David Cameron had made it absolutely clear. On numerous occasions, he quite explicitly stated that his government would honour the outcome of the referendum, whatever that outcome ended up being. This pledge even appeared on that controversial £9M leaflet, the one that was sent to every UK household. It was perfectly obvious that the UK couldn't be half-in and half-out of the bloc, even in order to pacify the highly cheesed off 48% who'd voted to remain. Let's face it, the UK's (previously-existing) relationship with the EU was already tentative considering all the various vitos and exemptions, as well as our continued use of the Pound Sterling. So the UK was never 100% sure about where it stood in relation to the EU.

Debate rages on

But alas and alack, despite a fairly definitive leave outcome and all of Cameron's pledges, things didn't go all that smoothly for Brexit Britain. Despite everything, the debate raged on well beyond the referendum date and Brexit wasn't actually done for several more years. It eventually transpired that David Cameron ended up in no position to honour any pledges because he went riding off into the sunset, leaving the whole mess for others to deal with.

Some would argue that Brexit is still not done. The whole thing has simply descended to become one massive pain in the jaxy. Ardent Brexiteers, such as Nigel Farage (with his distinctly Marmite take on politics) still declare their utter dissatisfaction with the way that the Tories' have handled Brexit. Considering Cameron's Tories had campaigned to remain in the EU, it looks suspiciously like they were ill prepared to actually exit the bloc. They obviously hadn't banked on being on the losing side of the referendum.

People continue to argue about Brexit even now, as though they are proving the fact that it's not quite gone to plan. There's now an ongoing blame-game instead of unanimous post-Brexit back-patting.

I always thought it was abundantly clear that leaving the bloc was going to prove a whole lot more difficult and indeed costly than adhering to the status quo. That was pretty obvious because after more than 40 years, UK ties to the bloc were deeply entrenched. There was going to be an awful lot of unpicking to be done involving countless civil servants, not to mention the inevitable involvement of battalions of very expensive specialist lawyers and barristers complete with their entourage of minions and ancillary staff. All of these extra personnel would be happily toing and froing between Westminster and Brussels at considerable taxpayer expense.


With the whole thing having been so incredibly divisive, it's still difficult to avoid coming across pockets of gloating Brexiteers as well as remainer naysayers shouting "I told you so!" Rarely has a country like Britain aired its dirty laundry so vociferously and so publicly in front of the entire dumbfounded world. There's been plenty of attempted face-saving activity going on in both camps but none of it has washed amidst perplexed international observers.

There's no question that Brexit has been hugely detrimental to thousands of businesses involved in imports and exports. Considering that Britain is a small but highly populated island nation renowned for our temperamental climate, we defaultly import and export a huge amount of stuff. Not least of all we import vast amounts of our food. So all this matters a great deal. Brexit was a very serious matter. An awful lot depends on getting it right. Just ask the good people of Northern Ireland.

Perversely, Brexit now means that businesses involved in imports and exports now face added bureaucracy and higher costs. This seems rather odd when we factor in the old narrative that Brexit was largely intended as a means to free British businesses of unnecessary 'EU bureaucracy.' Other negative economic factors now manifesting themselves go all the way back to Chancellor Osbourne's prolonged austerity programme. The years of Brexit-induced wrangling which followed 'austerity' doubtlessly took too many eyes off the ball.


As if all the above hasn't been enough, the whole world has had to deal with the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and an ensuing global supply chain chaos. Adding even more insult to injury, we're still witnessing a protracted and dangerous war right here on European soil. A war that's brought about a serious energy crisis unlike anything ever before witnessed by billions of people worldwide. Put simply, Brexit has been just one factor in some kind of perfect global economic storm.

Whilst Brexit cannot realistically be entirely blamed for all ills both in the UK as well as amidst the British expat population; it's nevertheless fair to suggest that it couldn't have happened at a worse time. The post-referendum fall in the value of Sterling was an unmitigated disaster for countless British expat retirees who'd been drawing fixed incomes from UK-based pension pots. These retirees literally banked on the continuation of generous exchange rates which had helped boost retirement incomes. Although this factor hasn't adversely impacted all British expat retirees, it has definitely taken a lot of hard cash out of the pockets of those who sought to realise their retirement dreams on a budget. The post-referendum decline in pound-to-euro exchange rates was catastrophic for such individuals. And that's before factoring in the ugly effects of rampant inflation which has, of course, adversely affected countries far beyond British shores.

Low inflation coupled with extremely favourable Pound vs Euro exchange rates was certainly a boon for those who came to Portugal (or any Eurozone territory) to live out their retirement dreams. With all that's been unfolding in the world recently, I suppose it's been all too easy to blame Brexiteers for every single economic woe. As a Brexiteer, I will admit that I'm still waiting to see any tangible benefits from Brexit. But looking at the bigger picture, for me at least, the jury's still out.


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes