In the Brexit religion, suggesting a return to the single market is like denying the immaculate conception of the Virgin; opting for the customs union is to argue that Jesus walked on the water or multiplied the loaves and fish; accepting the sentences of the European courts is questioning that he rose on the third day, and admitting freedom of movement is the equivalent of not believing in transubstantiation, rejecting that the bread and wine become for communion the body and blood of Christ.
Perhaps 53% of the British now say that Brexit was a mistake, and only 34% that it was a success, and that even more than 20% of those who voted six years ago to leave the EU have regretted it. . It does not matter that economists, businessmen and many columnists ask for a "reinterpretation" of the relationship with Brussels that does not do so much damage to trade. For politicians, both from the government and from the Labor opposition, for different reasons, it is a closed topic that they prefer not to touch. The Tories, due to their internal divisions and the fear that Nigel Farage will run in the next elections with a far-right platform. Labor leader Keir Starmer, because he does not want to irritate voters in the north of England who prefer not to be in Europe and were seduced by Boris Johnson. Apostasy is not allowed. Neither abjure, retract or desert.
One thing, however, is religion (or cult, or sect) and another, empirical data. That in this case they point out that the British economy has been overtaken by that of India, which is the only one in the G-7 that has not recovered its pre-pandemic levels and is going to suffer the longest recession, that imports and exports have declined, productivity and investment are not picking up, a million people have withdrawn from the labor force, taxes are the highest in seventy years, and the purchasing power of its citizens has not risen one iota since the financial crisis of the 2008. The Tories blame the virus, the war in Ukraine and the restrictions in China, but deny that Brexit has anything to do with it. It is innocent, pure, immaculate. Labour, convinced that power will be delivered on a platter without having to lift a finger, does not dispute it and closes its mouth.
New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has just served a month in office, is one of the original Brexit advocates. But as a former finance minister and a former banker well connected to the business world, he would dream of being able to "rethink" the relationship with Europe in a way that makes it less damaging, and find a formula that relaunchs the nation's finances instead of weighing them down. For this reason, through his finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, he has launched the trial balloon of a “Swiss-style” pact, one of the options already discussed in his day.
The Swiss formula as such does not exist, it is an endless collection of bilateral agreements on countless issues that align the regulations of the Swiss country with those of the EU to prevent the application of rates and tariffs, in exchange for a contribution to the community budgets, freedom of movement and submission to the judgments of the European courts, commitments all of which are unacceptable to eurosceptics. They have not hesitated to remember it, even threatening to bring down the government and precipitate early elections in order to defend their principles at all costs.
The radical anti-Europeans, amalgamated in the so-called European Research Group, constitute a bloc of some 80 deputies who, in their eagerness for a drastic Brexit outside the single market and the customs union, rejected Theresa May's commitments, forced her fall and raised Johnson. Now, despite the economic catastrophe and the progressive disenchantment of public opinion, they refuse to give up their conquests and turn back. They even ask to burn all the EU laws that still survive. Sunak, intimidated, has not been slow to deny any link to the "Swiss formula", and to reiterate his credentials as a first-rate Brexiter.
For now it is difficult to change things. But after the next elections another rooster can crow. The Eurosceptics will likely lose many of their seats, and if Labor wins, Starmer will have a free hand to recalibrate the relationship with Europe. It is even possible that he plays John XXIII and publishes an encyclical that, as far as Brexit is concerned, accepts apostasy.