Before Monday I have always taken an impartial stance when ingesting information produced by clearly pro-Leave and pro-Remain groups, to analyze the information and take time to cross-reference it with the information available on the internet. However, when I read the released Yellowhammer papers, cross-referenced them with the leaked papers published in the Sunday Times as well as the comment made by the First Minister for Scotland, I started to wonder: Why is the UK still pursuing Brexit?

The only reason, politically, I can conceive is to allow the Tory party to square off the Brexit Party and siphon off all their votes - however, I cannot see how that can be the only reason.

At the moment, support for Scottish Independence has gone up - Brexit contributing to the support for a second independence referendum - and Welsh Independence has a sharp increase in support over the past few weeks, posing a threat to the current structure of the union (which wouldn't be all that good for the stability of the country, especially if a Scottish indyref takes place in the next 3 years); the Yellowhammer Papers outline near-paralysis on the imports of Medicine and Food, it even states that people that are under the most financial strain will more disadvantaged than the rest of the citizenry; the NI/ROI border issue hasn't been solved; and, to make matters worse, there is a high possibility to a recession brought on by the US-China trade war as well as the uncertainty brought on by Brexit (and no deal).

As the Government is pressing on with what looks like the only Brexit the UK is getting, a no-deal Brexit, why are we pressing on with it? The disadvantages outweigh the advantages previously stated in the 2016 referendum, and all but no deal has been thrown out of the window for being either too soft, not fitting the Governments 'red lines', or not being Brexity enough (Customs Union, Canada deal, &c).

If Brexit will do the opposite to what was promised in the official campaign, then why pursue it - when it will do so much damage to the UK?

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    I downvoted because of the horrific misrepresentation of the Yellowhammer papers. It doesn’t say anything about a near paralysis of medicine and food, it says “these two factors will not cause an overall shortage of food in the U.K.” and “unmitigated this will have an impact on the supply of medicines” - well obviously this is being mitigated, right now - those mitigation’s are even discussed in the next paragraph!
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 20:42
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – yannis
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 12:32
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    It's worth noting that those papers detail a Worst Case scenario that the British government is and has been moving to mitigate. The papers detail the fallout if essentially no mitigating action was taken by the British Government. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 11:40
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    @cal97g I disagree. The content of the released Yellowhammer report by the Govt in compliance with the Humble Address Motion is similar to the content in the released Yellowhammer report leaked to the Sunday Times and shared to the Scottish Gov. The difference is in the title. Unless the report shared with the Scots is not the report released by the Gov, there is evidence to support the accusation that the Gov changed the title from 'base scenario' to 'reasonable worst-case scenario' to shield itself from proper scrutiny, protecting the Cabinets image to the public. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 13:34
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    @Tim Here's the relevant part from the next paragraph. "DHSC is developing a multi-layered approach to mitigate these risks". I'm not sure it's a correct characterization to say that's a discussion of mitigation. All it says is they're thinking about mitigating it in some unknown way. Probably because this document is not intended to contain that sort of detail.
    – Nathan
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 16:32

7 Answers 7


You are making the same mistake as the remain campaign did:

This is not a rational decision, at the core, it's an emotional decision. It's not about what financial, economic or whatever benefits either way brings it's about whether people want to be in or out of the union and what they emotionally consider their main political entity (i.e. "nation"). Any feeling of belonging to the political entity EU is totally missing for a large part of the population, they have no emotional connection and thus it feels wrong that the EU they "don't belong to" makes decisions that affects them.

All the negative predictions, whether probable or not, will not convince most leave supporters to change their mind, but harden their decision to leave "despite all the scare mongering". Boris Johnson rides on this emotional support consciously or not. These "worst case" scenarios won't change the underlying attitude, so they have no impact on his (large-scale) decision making. Again, to supporters, it makes him even more of a hero to not be dissuaded by these "fake news" of people who want to thwart the "will of the people" by scaring them with the consequences of their actions.

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    For sóme people it may actually be a rational choice. And they could have lobbied and funded and campaigned hard for it. washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/… Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 16:43
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    You're right. But it's so sad that it hurts. Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 16:49
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    There's more to life than money. Votes aren't cast based on "how much better/worse off we'll be financially". In this case, the sense of national identify is more important. That's perfectly rational. Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 13:21
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    "Boris Johnson rides on this emotional support consciously or not." Oh, it's conscious.... Calculated, in fact. Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:00
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    @DukeJakeMorgan - The potential financial benefits of Brexit have been demonstrated to be a sham. The "distance" from EU democracy has more to do with the press refusing to report on what the EU does except in wholy negative ways. And the fact is, the EU does invest money in the regions of the UK which are mostly ignored by Westminster. Oh, and (this bears constant repetition), EU FoM rules include restrictions which the UK govt consistently refused to implement. Because the UK needs immigration. And Brexit will not change that. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 4:59

There are multiple reasons.

Financial gains (updated)

According to a press release from Channel 4's Dispatches:

Funds betting against British businesses:

Dispatches also reveals how some hedge funds have built up huge bets against British business and hoping to make big profits if the economy hits the rocks after Brexit.

Dispatches reveals that the US investment firm Blackrock holds the most bets against British business totalling more than £1bn. Blackrock has paid former Chancellor and key remain campaigner George Osborne more than a £1m since 2016.

The hedge fund run by leading Brexiteer Crispin Odey is betting almost £500m against British businesses. Odey made more than £200m on the night of the referendum by betting that the value of the pound would plummet.

The source used for the part below has been disputed in the comments linking to this article on fullfact.org. The old part is stated below, but as outlined by fullfact.org, the source does not seem to have sufficient evidence to back up figures used on the number of short positions taken out against British businesses.

Some people may stand to make money over a no-deal Brexit. The simplest way to argue for this taking short positions on stocks that will be badly affected by a no-deal Brexit and then trying to make sure that outcome is reached.

The Byline Times recently published an article on this in relation to Brexit:

Currently, £8,274,350,000 (£8.3 billion) of aggregate short positions has been taken out by hedge funds connected to the Prime Minister and his Vote Leave campaign, run by his advisor Dominic Cummings, on a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Less regulation

This is actually a point that may be easier outside the EU on a no-deal basis. Within the EU or inside some customs arrangement, the UK will have to conform to some (or many, depending on the type of arrangements) EU regulations. On the whole, that's a good thing, but there may well be sectors where less regulation is good for some business. An example may be shady banks that are fairly strictly regulated after the financial crisis of 2008, something no-deal Brexit Britain may choose to relax. Another is about corporate tax, they could try to become a tax haven (see this Reuters article touching on that). Not necessarily good for the UK as a whole, but possibly beneficial for those businesses.

Credibility, not wanting to admit having misled voters

A lot of politicians campaigned / supported for Brexit, some before the referendum (e.g. PM Boris, Brexit Party leader Farage) and some afterwards (former Conservative leader and PM Theresa May, Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn). Coming back from that position may be hard electorally, as it means admitting having supported something that cannot be delivered.

Electoral difficulties

Since many people have bought into Brexit (it was advertised a certain way, they will not settle for not getting it) and still want it. Especially if you consider that many people who have never really been involved with politics may have come to because of Brexit-related promises, abandoning the project altogether may be political suicide (as other parties will still try to profit from those voters).


Disclaimer: I'm not a Brit. I think Brexit is a bad idea, but by now I almost hope they'd leave Europe and not just the EU, sailing away into the Atlantic ...

Think of the long term.

For decades, many important EU members have worked towards an ever closer union. This was no comfortable fit for the UK, which has caused endless squabbling about opt-outs, rebates, and other special cases.
Some of the new EU members share the British concerns, but they're too dependent on subsidies and market access to go their nationalist way. The UK can go it alone and if they really don't like the EU integration, they should take the consequences.

Read Yellowhammer carefully.

There won't be famine. There will be shortages and price increases of some ingredients. Comsumers in Western countries have gotten used to fresh lettuce on the supermarket shelves year-round, but that's not necessary for a healthy diet.
Price increases will hurt some people, who have trouble of making ends meet now, but UK society as a whole can easily weather the cost. It is up to the UK to increase welfare etc. to keep up with the prices.
There could be problems if vital medicines are stuck in a giant traffic jam. The way around that would be drastic government intervention, clearing some ferry ports for priority traffic only. I believe there are some Cold War plans they could dig out.

Unicorns and Backstops.

There could have been an almost-workable Brexit, or at least one which mitigates the obvious problems. That would have required a transitional agreement and significant steps towards the final agreement within the two year period. But that would have required a realistic plan by the Brexiteers, ready for negotiation the day after the referendum.

  • The Backstop problem is fundamentally unsolvable as long as there is integrity of the EU27 internal market, no visible border between NI and the RoI, integrity of the UK-NI internal market, and no free trade agreement between the UK and the EU27.
    If the first and second issue are EU27 red lines, and the second and third issue are UK red lines, that requires at least free trade in goods and regulatory compatibility across the border.
  • The UK economy is heavily dependent on financial services. Some Brexiteers had planned to boost the financial sector by deregulation and tax cuts, but the sector depends in part on easy access to EU financial markets. The Brexiteers should have made financial sector access a priority, and they should have been prepared to make concessions elsewhere to secure it.
  • Brexiteer negotiators seem to have bet much on the assumption that the EU is all about backroom deals, and that the German car industry could coerce Berlin and that Berlin could coerce the rest of the EU. What we are seeing is the EU27 backing the Republic of Ireland (as the most affected EU27 member). The Brexiteers should have had a contingency plan for that.
  • What was the German car industry/Berlin/Germany assumed to coerce the EU into?
    – nwp
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 7:44
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    @nwp Brexiteers believed that threat of UK market closing to German auto-mobile companies is enough to make those companies bully German government into strong-arming entire EU into agreeing to whatever London wants. To say that brexiteers overestimated their negotiating position would be an understatement, and only one of long list of things on which they were ridiculously wrong.
    – M i ech
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 7:49
  • @nwp, accepting many/most/all Brexiteer demands, in exchange for being allowed to export cars to the UK.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 7:49
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    @DmitryGrigoryev: Besides VW, the VAG group also had issues with some Audi A3's. BMW had a smaller issue that was quickly settled for an $8M fine. All German car companies had lobbied (legally and successfully) for weaker diesel standards, so many countries were already unhappy before the cheating was discovered.
    – MSalters
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 14:34
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    @MSalters, I'm not saying that the German automotive companies control Berlin. I'm saying that the Brexiteer position seems to have been based on this assumption.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 15:56

Because the choice was put to public referendum, and the British people voted "Leave".

It's just that simple. The David Cameron government put the question to popular vote in a high-stakes public referendum. Those in power thought the people would vote Remain and that would allow any popular resistance to complete integration into the EU, and to the change from a British national identity to a European identity, to be more effectively de-legitimized.

But much to the surprise of nearly everyone in power in the UK, Leave won. So now the UK needs to leave. What would it mean if the government refused to respect the referendum, because most people in power didn't like the result?

The government must go through with it now. If they don't follow through with the referendum result on such a visible and important issue, it will mean that the government does not actually respect the democratic process at all.

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    In other words, Democracy means never being able to change your mind? Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 19:46
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    In this case, 'changing your mind' would properly be in the form of having another referendum after some amount of time, after the Leave vote is faithfully followed and implemented. Not as some would apparently have it here, to keep voting until the public 'gets it right'.
    – wberry
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 1:32
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    So you're happy to have another referendum, so long as it is already too late for it to make any difference? (Seriously, why would it be improper to hold another referendum now that the public knows what they are actually voting for?) Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 2:26
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    @RedSonja - I agree with you, however, whether or not you like the idea of a referendum becomes irrelevant if you've already held one.
    – komodosp
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 8:19
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    It's hard to understand why a "Are you sure?" check on the detail before taking a final, irrevocable step is undemocratic.
    – jcupitt
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 8:41

Besides the (oft repeated) argument of implementing the will of the people from the referendum, in more realpolitik terms, Boris Johnson has hitched his wagon to the "do [Brexit] or die" slogan. And he said it pretty often. It's hard to take back something like that.

After the EU election of this summer, in which the Conservative party came 5th, it has recovered substantially in voting intention (for a general election) following Johnson's election to the Conservative leadership, who campaigned on the aforementioned platform.

A number of Conservative commentators are egging Johnson to take Farage's offer of a pact, which entails Johnson endorsing no-deal Brexit in return for the Brexit Party not contesting the seats the Conservatives are likely to win. For now Johnson, at least publicly, still sticks to his line that he will likely get a last-minute deal, on more favorable terms than what Theresa May got from the EU. (Actually, two days ago, Johnson has even publicly rejected, through his spokesperson, Farage's offer.)


TL;DR: Because that’s what the result of the referendum was, and the main parties promised to honour this.

Below I delve more into the content of this question as it was when I posted this answer.

The only reason, politically, I can conceive is to allow the Tory party to square off the Brexit Party and siphon off all their votes

The Tory party are not the only ones still backing Brexit. The leader of the opposition is a long-term Brexit advocate (until recently), and only this week did the Liberal Democrat’s even start considering moving away from honouring Brexit entirely.

The Brexit party, obviously, support Brexit, as does UKIP.

I think the main reason, politically, to support Brexit, is because the main parties promised they would honour the result of the referendum.

Labour — seek to unite the country around a Brexit deal that works for every community in Britain.

Conservative — We will honour the referendum result and leave the EU.

The reasons they did this are: - because lots of their voters (and members) supported Brexit in the initial referendum - because lots of their voters (and members) still support Brexit today - because a referendum is the essence of asking people. The MPs ignoring the opinion of the voters is not a good look.

support for Scottish Independence has gone up

I agree, that’s bad.

Welsh Independence has a sharp increase in support

Also bad, although, for many reasons, much, much less likely than Scottish independence.

the Yellowhammer Papers outline near-paralysis on the imports of Medicine and Food

This is one of the most misleading statements I’ve seen regarding the Yellowhammer papers. Let me quote the relevant sections. Regarding food:

these two factors will not cause an overall shortage of food in the U.K.

And from the section on medical supplies:

unmitigated this will have an impact on the supply of medicines

But just one paragraph later:

DHSC is developing a multi-layered approach to mitigate these risks.

That’s not a near paralysis, at all. I’m not sure what part of that sounds like a near paralysis!

it even states that people that are under the most financial strain will more disadvantaged than the rest of the citizenry

I can’t see where it says this, can you point out which paragraph it is?

the NI/ROI border issue hasn't been solved

Probably the biggest reason against Brexit right now.

there is a high possibility to a recession brought on by the US-China trade war as well as the uncertainty brought on by Brexit (and no deal).

Recessions happen pretty regularly, every 10 years. Perhaps Brexit brought this recession forward by 2 years, perhaps it didn’t. Uncertainty around Brexit is an excellent reason to get on with exiting, rather than delay upon delay.

As the Government is pressing on with what looks like the only Brexit the UK is getting, a no-deal Brexit

Notably, this wasn’t cited, because the government has repeatedly and consistently expressed their strong aversion to no deal. Perhaps that’s what’s going to happen, but I think it’s fairly safe to say this is not the government’s aim:

I've made it absolutely clear I don't want no deal and that we've got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty
— Boris Johnson

The disadvantages outweigh the advantages previously stated in the 2016 referendum

You’ve not listed a single advantage in your question - I’m not sure how you can conclude that they are outweighed (or how anyone could - how does one quantitatively measures the value of sovereignty, or an open NI/RoI border?).

and all but no deal has been thrown out of the window

See the point above about the governments attitude towards no deal.

Brexit will do the opposite to what was promised in the official campaign

Is Brexit going to do the opposite of what was promised?

when it will do so much damage to the UK

I’ll end on this - I’ll repeat a metaphor I used in the comments here. Conjoined twins are difficult to separate, and it can be very risky. But you still go through with those risks, and that difficulty, because the rewards for both parties are so large it’s worth the risk. We have to decide whether the risks are greater than the reward - and that’s not an easy task. That’s what the referendum was for.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – yannis
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 13:04

Brexit votes were motivated by Sovreignty, Immigration, Cultural and Anti-Establishment concerns. http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/?p=1153

Here are some reasons for the referendum result: "The Auditors conclude that the EU commission must work more closely with the people for decisions". It isn't a priority, the headline on Europa.eu was removed after one day. EU plebiscite-aversion is the root of Brexit.

The EU commission doesn't enshrine "pilot schemes" to test laws, nor "citizen commissions/committees" to research them. The EU isn't a "direct democracy" and does not enshrine "direct plebiscite representation" as one of it's goals. It is an "politician's democracy" (archaic democracy)

The results of a commoner-averse commission:

The EURO Currency: 500 notes are a mafia dream, and mostly used for illegal trade... 500 notes were erased after 20 years of criminal use. US/UK/Japan don't have 500 notes for a reason, not even 200 notes. 500 note folly is an EU symbol of political meddling in academic planning and failed policy. https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/28/cash-out-eurozone-banks-stop-issuing-500-note-in-fight-against-crime

The Euro coins were a hurried and impatient project... no pilot schemes, no popular endorsement, like the NZ flag competition, they are locally unpopular and confusing for color blind users (5% of the population). (identical brass colors, identical round shapes. People even confuse the 1 and 2 euro coins after a long day because they look identical except for the size). https://science.slashdot.org/story/02/07/11/1352234/euro-coins-test-for-color-blindness I'll do a test on the street to see which french people say "they franc was worse! (0%).

The Common agricultural policy was improperly planned, encouraging set-aside land instead of chemical-free land. farmers were paid for growing nothing. The 30 billion spent on the CAP was highly contentius and has had many reforms. https://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/environmental/b/environmentalregulation/posts/the-european-union-39-s-common-agricultural-policy

The cookie consent policy was incompletely planned, consent forms are unformatted, it risks viruses via form-fatigue. https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/192943/are-eu-cookie-consent-forms-safe

The macro-economic policy was badly policed(unlimited lending): private German banks lend Greeks, Spanish 150 billion. https://www.thelocal.de/20180621/germany-made-billions-on-greeces-debt-crisis-berlin-confirms https://actions.sumofus.org/a/goldman-made-450-million-euros-from-crashing-the-greek-economy-it-should-return-the-profits

Ebike law, a green law, rated ebikes lower than all other regions of the planet, less than Japan, India, USA, Canada, Switzerland. 250w is fine for Brussels, which is flat. Countries like Belgium have added stronger ebike legislation for S-Pedelecs, while S-Pedelecs are illegal in the French/Italian/Austrian Alps, the Pyrenees, Scotland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#Europe

Politicians have radicalized the people, by refusing to cooperate for popular consencus. The UK govt asked for unrestricted market with restricted migration, and the EU refused from the start. The rest of the negotiation was negative. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36641383

My the way, I am a centrist French and Scottish-English brexiteer: pro-single-market / anti-single-citizenship. I have respect for Ireland and their ancient border. I also respect a lot of fresh thinking that the EU has brought to the UK.

The base premise for the EURO has been mitigated by the internet: instant digital translation of language and currency-font-conversion... withdrawal using credit cards, The EURO needn't be physical. The computers can make a virtual EURO without needing a physical one! I personally loved the experience of foreign currencies, Francs, Lira, Drachma. Who would to travel everywhere without a credit card? https://www.pymnts.com/news/cross-border-commerce/2016/internet-cross-border-trade/

The military premise for the EU is obsolete, from a world of printed press with black-and-white TV, independent from NATO (1949), predating nuclear deterrence (1950), predating the internet(1995), predating digital culture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO

The EU doesn't tax chemical foods or subsidize natural foods because of lobbies. The EU doesn't tax plastic use for packaging because of lobbies. The EU doesn't tax immoral foods like foreign coffee, tea, bananas, to develop exploited nations, because of lobbies.

EU institutions employ 4300 translators and 800 interpreters as full-time workers. The constitution is written in three official languages, German, French, English, which are translated for negotiation, like Chinese whispers. Imagine that US law had to to be translated from German and french to English sentence by sentence by very bored translators, and back again, only for the drafting, let alone the final result? it would be much less efficient. (This is translated from german: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/2016/e/ma3.html)

The cultural ideals of the EU date from the 60's and they are controversial: multi-culture society does not simplify society. Why unrestricted society's complexity? https://www.ft.com/content/dd122a8c-8720-11e7-8bb1-5ba57d47eff7 Jews took 1800 years to avoid EU integration, resulting in Hitlers racial policy... Cultures do not assimilate, so what will be the utopia result of inviting 100 million Muslims to Europe? Are you sure that your children will not regret the decisions you make today, that their cities will feel home to them as they did to you, will your children feel alienated in their own country? perhaps, yes. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/5012478.stm

The EU has relegated world development and green issues far below it's own prosperity, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969718343420 as evidenced by the lack of tax on plastic, tea, coffee, bananas, and other world-devastating goods.

Bhutan, Norway, Sweden, and isolated nations are often the kindest and most peaceful nations, like a village far from a main road... Trade-routes tend to be complicated, segregated, violent... Mohammad came from a trade-route culture, Buddha was from Nepal, nations like Syria, Guatemala, North Korea, Iran, have more border movement and are naturally more violent. Borders of military transgression, like Northern Ireland, occupy the same footing in EU law as Physical borders, like the Alps, The channel, The Pyrenees.

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    This looks like an answer to "why did the UK vote to leave the EU in the first place", not "why is the government still going ahead with it".
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 5:57
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    It's not an answer, it's a rant. Let's see some citations for all those assertions.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 7:19
  • Ok thanks, it's a fair point. updated. The Yellowhammer project is tangential to the motivations of the brexit voters, which were not primarily economic... A hammer is a dangerous weapon, so the military operation code of "YellowHammer" is similar to "Weapons of Mass Destruction"... The counter arguments against Bush and Blair were the same despite their WMD project. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 9:09
  • legally, a court of appeal reviews the original evidence in light of new evidence, the new evidence being a recent treasury report which had a threatening name widely communicated by the media. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 9:28
  • re " ... , like the NZ flag competition, they are locally unpopular ..." -> The majority of us like the new NZ flag just fine thanks :-). The Auckland harbour bridge flies the old flag on one side and the new one on the other. They may swap sides occasionally. Who can tell? :-) Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 3:02

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