Is Brexit a success? Test2020

There’s been recent Twitter/punditry hostility that goes something like this:
Remainers: Brexiteers cannot contemplate Brexit being bad for the UK
Brexiteers: Remainers will never accept that Brexit is a success

To break this deadlock, and hopefully as a useful tool both for 2020’s politicians and future historians, I thought it’d be really useful now to set out what we might expect ‘failure’ and ‘success’ to look like. As far as possible, this should be quantifiable either by macro data, yes/no truth claims (‘EU citizens have same residency rights as in 2015’) or overwhelming obviousness. And yes, of course I’m aware that there’s lots of noise for the macro measures. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

It is not that straightforward.

As a very public Remainer, it wouldn’t be fair for me alone to define these tests. All the Tests below come from prominent Leave campaigners, Vote Leave claims/promises/commitments, and ‘Change or Go’, the Business for Britain report.

Obviously this document is not of any value to those who say the theoretical freedom of Britain from its Brussels chains is all that matters. I kindly ask such people not to offer comment.

Otherwise, I invite Leavers, Remainers, statisticians, economists, constitutional lawyers and migrant rights lawyers, and anyone else interested, to help set what the parameters should be, when they should be tested, and offer other Tests.


Edited 9.7.2017 with more categories.

Good outcomes


Pound does not crash below 1.15USD; 1.05EUR (unless other clearly unrelated shock)

No formal recession (unless other clear cause e.g. credit crisis, invasion, bubble) by 5 years after exit agreement comes into force (if exit agreement) or after we ‘walk away’ (if not)

Industries (City, construction, catering and hospitality, agriculture) content with supply of labour at appropriate skills


Under 5% of workforces of auto manufacturing ‘exported’ out of UK between date of vote and i) publishing of final settlement, ii)2 years after agreement takes effect. [By hard definitions, the job losses would need to be explicitly associated with worse business conditions under Brexit according to senior company figure or press release]

Under 5% of workforces of City ‘exported’ out of UK between date of vote and i) publishing of final settlement, ii) 2 years after agreement takes effect [as above]

UK employment levels fine (below 9% unemployment), or indeed benefits from migration restrictions (assuming business demand is stable [unless business demand drops because of drop in demand associated with Brexit terms])

Real wages (no worse than 2010-2016 range; considerable improvement if we’re to believe some L claims eg Tate & Lyle)

real terms growth in wages of bottom 20% of earners above 2005 to 2017 average

inequality: reduction in earnings gap between top and bottom deciles of earners


FTAs –
> talks underway by 2022 for X FTAs;
> Y FTAs in force by 2025;
> FTA tariff and access terms no worse than CETA; no use of ISDS;
>negotiation thereof more transparent than CETA/TTIP;
> FTAs must include some G20 nations)

FTA with the EU27 signed:
i) without WTO hiatus
ii) with headline tariffs, NTBs and service access (inc banking) no worse than CETA
iii) OR banking: better than Switzerland (as judged by industry spokespeople)

UK re/gains seats, votes on international bodies (UNECE, WTO, ISS, Basel, Codex, ILO etc) as predicted and (?) has notable moments of clear influence.

Mean FDI, both from EU27 and from RoW, falls within 1sd of 2005-2015 levels

WEF Global Competitiveness Report & World Bank, Ease of Doing Business, no drop below last decade’s range


Terror and crime data sharing continues

Rights of UK citizens in EU27 countries safeguarded (inc. Health, residence, employment rights, welfare rights, education)

Rights of EU citizens in UK safeguarded (as above, as in the British Futures promise)


– Waiting times no change or improve

– Reasonable growth in budget in line with GDP if not above

– No staffing shortages beyond current levels from migration restrictions (this applies too to construction, seasonal farming &c)


End of Tampon Tax (VAT)

schools: no greater competition for places; improved teacher to student ratio; higher standards of written and spoken English GCSE

social housing availability improves, waiting lists no longer than mean 2010 to 2017. (Controlling for massive government building project a similar)

private house prices neither crash (drop 5% average value within one year) nor see prohibitive inflation (gaining value above 5% general inflation)

Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in the UK

UK fishermen have same area to fish;
stocks are stable or stronger;
no ‘cod wars’ with EU or EEA states

‘Nationl Cohesion’ or similar feeling does not suffer/no increased domestic animosity. BSAS, ONS stats on national wellbeing

Good by some pro-Brexit reckoning/ promise keeping

End of CJEU jurisdiction over UK government and UK courts (direct)

End of CJEU jurisdiction over UK government and UK courts (indirect)

End of jurisdiction of EU bodies setting standards such as EMA, ECB, Common Patents, REACH

UK Universities not facing shortfalls from i) lack of EU funds, ii) difficulty getting full-fee paying overseas students

Funds for UK agriculture mirrored by UK Gov for period promised

Funds for regions (social, coherence) mirrored for period promised

EU migration i) limited by clear, fair points-based system with noted impact on gross immigration
Coherent, operative plan for limiting EU27 migration, ii) put into effect with success comparable to that of current UKBI standards

End to payments into EU budget with net gain over £280m, or roadmap to same after divorce costs, those costs not being greater than expected budget payments until 2020 round

UK government borrowing & debt outlook no worse then 2016 spring forecasts )[1] [ie Andrea Leadsom right on predicting ‘no danger’ ]

No obvious energy buying/generation caused by Brexit consequence (e.g. pipeline connectivity)

No dislocation for Gibraltar beyond that experienced by mainland UK

Calais – current Le Tocqueville treaty perseveres, or stronger situation agreed. (ie no lapse, no open border on French side)

ROI-NI Border issue settled without uptick in violence in Ulster; Britain legitimately able to stop EU and non EU migrants entering Britain through ROI border if free movement no longer applies to Britian

Tourism levels do not drop below 2015-6 projections

Recorded race hate crime in UK, and/or violent crime against Europeans, does not rise +2SD above 2010-2015 levels.

UK bodies stay part of Horizon2020, paying roughly similar amount, UK scientists not discriminated against, collaborations continue

Sporting cooperation like EUFA, FIFA continues unabated

Hard to measure

Whitehall more accountable (?) and therefore more responsive (??)

Environmental red tape gone; but environment no worse (??)

Splitting WTO schedules with a view to non-EU quotas does not result in net loss of market access for UK exporters (Ungphakorn)

End to farming subsidies and defensive tariffs making staple foods cheaper? (IEA paper)
Developing world’s UK export situation consequently more fair?

Trading conditions with Cotonou Agreement countries no worse for former Commonwealth partners

Mutually agreed food safety standards maintained, and agreement over checking thereof

Stay in EURATOM or negotiate new mutually beneficial association (?)

No TTIP-esque (?) back door privatisation of NHS via new FTAs

Whitehall (i) able to change State Aid and Procurement rules, which (ii) can be used to help struggling but sustainable (or small but promising) UK businesses and/or prevent job losses and/or defend against predatory acquisitions

Less employment red tape (?) eg reform to WTD, TAWD, that don’t completely ruin worker rights but fix situation for eg junior doctors

Less other red tape (?)

Parliamentary sovereignty and true democracy –
Parliament makes decisions that it clearly would not have been able to under the EU, or these are at least seriously debated
‘Kick out bad rulers’… unpopular government and civil servants are ?fired faster?

Foreign Policy – UK takes its own distinct line on crises like Ukraine, Turkey, Arab Spring, distinct from (and superior to?) those of EU/Mogherini. Or makes very conscious choice to join EU as a third party. Does not become constant US lapdog

Asylum and refugee policy – remain part of Dublin Agreement or lead on drafting a new, stronger system that Brx agrees to (??)

Obviously bad

EU talks breakdown resulting in no deal, WTO terms (this ‘bad’ by DD & May’s aims)

Any withdrawal of UK diplomatic staff from EU capitals, Brussels or vice versa

Breakup of NATO



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