Six months after the EU referendum, the government in Britain still has no plan for leaving the bloc. What does Brexit really mean?
They came here in the search for answers. Students, pensioners, married couples, men looking weary after a long day’s work, women holding a glass of red wine — around 60 people altogether. Members of London’s middle class are gathered at the Tabernacle, a former church in the Notting Hill neighborhood. They have a lot of questions. What will happen when Britain leaves the European Union? Will the country become poorer? And what kind of society will develop here at Europe’s periphery?
Entry to this evening’s event in Notting Hill, “The Brexit Effect: How Brexit Will Change Life, Work, Politics and Business in the UK,” cost 26 pounds (30 euros) and similar events are springing up all over the country these days. There are podium discussions and conferences — and every single one of these events offers proof of the vacuum that exists following the referendum, and of the considerable thirst for answers. There are also a dozen Brexit books on the market as the publishing industry seeks to fill the gap. At least someone seems to be profiting from the country’s departure from the EU.
A man wearing a dark suit bounces onto the stage. Anand Menon is a professor for European politics at London’s renowned King’s College. Another expert. If there’s anyone who knows the future — at least the contours of it — then it’s Menon. But Menon also seems at a loss. Sorry, he says, he has no idea what will happen.
An admission price of 26 pounds for answers that nobody can offer. Not on this evening, not in Notting Hill and, indeed, nowhere in Britain. So far, Theresa May’s government hasn’t produced anything providing even the remotest clues about where this journey will take Britain. Instead, the prime minister’s strategy has focused on empty platitudes. “We will make a success of it,” “Brexit means Brexit” or “I want to have the best possible Brexit deal.”
But with each passing day, a growing number of contradictory messages come out of her cabinet. Will Britain remain a member of the customs union? Will the country continue to pay into the EU budget? Will EU citizens one day be deported from Britain? At the beginning of December, May even made an appearance on the deck of a Royal Navy ship in the Persian Gulf, telling her audience: “I want a red, white and blue Brexit.”