It's probably fair to suggest that Brexiteers are in the minority in this rather niche community. I'm not suggesting for one moment that there are absolutely no Brexiteers here but, on the whole, we’re a breed that's definitely fewer and further between than those in Camp Remain.

I often hear suggestions that the UK should take sheepish steps towards an eventual return into the EU fold. There are plenty of folk who passionately believe that this should happen. But as time marches on, this is a difficult proposition to take seriously because Brexit has been a pretty costly exercise. Personally, I’d find it difficult to argue whether it's been particularly great value the way things have gone. But. We did have a vote. The cost of NOT honouring the result of the 2016 referendum would have been far greater. What kind of democracy would that have shown us to be?

Smoke and mirrors

The looming economic ‘disaster’ that formed so much of the case for the Remain campaign turned out to be a whole lot of smoke and mirrors. Losing the automatic right to be able to live (love? - remember that one) and work in the EU was actually only of value to around 2% of the UK population. Those who really want to do all that living and (bless them) loving on continental soil still can. There are plenty of ways and means that can be employed to this end.

I've listened to James O'Brien (Remainer in-chief) tearing strips off your common or garden Brexiteer on LBC. He does a damned good job of it. The favourite question he asks is: “How has Brexit improved things for any of us ‘leave’ advocates?” It's a good question. Frankly, I struggle to find a good, coherent answer. One that James wouldn't tear to smithereens, that is.

But hang on. Britain is out of the EU, is it not? Perhaps the burden of proof has now swung right around? I could ask remain/rejoin advocates (not one and the same mindset, I hasten to add) what problems would rejoining the EU now solve? Would it really be worth the significant costs involved? And what about all the billions we’ve already spent on leaving? Let's face it, we're never going to get that money back regardless of what we do.

On top of all the above, wouldn’t we be forced to repeat the same old divisive arguments over and over again? You know, the ones that failed to convince voters to remain in the EU last time around? Especially since so many of these arguments (on both sides) were either bogus or out-and-out scare-mongering exaggerations.


On the plus side, since exiting the EU, the UK has formulated its own regulatory frameworks for such things as AI and financial services. Far from watching businesses fleeing the square mile, the City has actually grown and prospered post-Brexit. Remarkable, considering the pandemic and the raging war in Ukraine? It's a shame that all these financial glad tidings aren't universally enjoyed by the general population. This only feeds the narrative that Brexit only really helped the super-rich become super-richer.

Since Brexit, the UK has become the world’s third-largest destination for AI investment. Only the US and China, respectively, are doing better when it comes to this new, important and fast-growing technology. With AI, the UK has actually outshined the rest of the EU bloc in its entirety. So. Joining the EU again would force the UK to adopt the EU’s regulatory frameworks and that would scupper all the advantages that Brexit has afforded.

By the same token, the UK has invested a great deal of effort as well as hard cash in forging diplomatic and indeed trading relationships throughout the world. Nowadays, we have comprehensive trade deals with New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Singapore and Switzerland. A similar deal with the enormous market, that is India, is also in the pipeline. Renewed EU affiliation would obviously mean that all these new relationships would have to be scrapped. Hardly a great use of energy and funds?


And it's not as if UK trade with our EU neighbours has stopped dead in the water. Far from it. It's growing. In fact, UK exports to the EU increased by 24% in cash terms between 2021 and 2022, while the value of imports from the EU increased by 36%. Not the catastrophic meltdown envisaged by the remain camp then?

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the EU has become something of a different animal. For example, wannabe members must now be willing and indeed be fiscally qualified to meet strict criteria in order to adopt the Euro. The UK going it alone with the Pound Sterling would now definitely not be a consideration. Even the City would be wholly regulated by the Paris-based European Banking Authority. This makes any notion that a newly “independent” Scotland or Wales could simply walk into the EU club and be welcomed with open arms pretty much for the birds. Quite frankly, it always was.

People love to quote the findings of opinion polls. Even during Brexit, Brexiteers, such as myself, adhered to that old notion that “the grass is always greener”. These days, pollsters who find in favour of the idea of rejoining the EU omit to mention that if respondents were quizzed if they would potentially change their mind about rejoining if that meant giving up the Pound and accepting free movement. Key points!

Europhiles like to tell us that Euroscepticism is a generational thing. It's all about “baby boomers'' and a voter demographic whom have long since joined the ranks of the dear-departed. Young people, we're lectured, are bound to be far more pro-EU.

But hang on a minute. I wonder if it's remotely explainable how popular support for EU membership has swung from a massive two-thirds in 1975 to just over a half (52%) in 2016? It's all going the wrong way for Camp Remain.

A Choice

Making a case for renewed EU membership is already difficult. As time goes on, it will become increasingly so. It’s no good arguing that the UK shouldn’t have left in 2020. The simple fact is, we were given a choice, and we chose to get out.

Rehashing tired old arguments no longer cut the proverbial mustard.

I don't know if James O’Brien is a rejoin advocate but if I was in his LBC presenter’s seat, I would certainly be quizzing “rejoiners” about what problems rejoining the EU would potentially solve? What would the costs actually be? Would rejoining be worth the price?

These are questions that not only need coherent answers but those answers would need to be convincing enough to swing public opinion and actually justify another referendum.

From my most recent time spent amidst what I feel is a largely “remainer” expat community here on the Algarve, I see little by way of evidence to suggest that many have grasped that the debate has now morphed somewhat. I say this because I hear the same old arguments being dredged up time and again (often on social media). I can only conclude that a lot of this is about getting that proverbial pound of flesh by enacting virtual grudge rematches on good old Facebook. God help us if any of this ever came to pass in the real world!


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

Douglas Hughes