WHEN the clocks struck 12 on December 31, celebrations in Scotland were more muted than usual, as a country famous around the world for its street parties and Hogmanay traditions saw in the bells quietly at home.

In Downing Street, however, I imagine that the celebrations were rather more raucous: champagne corks flying across the room as the wine flowed freely and the help cutting enough cheese to cater for a dozen work meetings. Because for Boris Johnson and his cabal of Brexiteer Tories, December 31 was not just the start of a New Year – it also marked the one-year anniversary of their long-awaited and much-desired free trade deal with the European Union.

Well, in every victory lies the seeds of future defeat. In a statement released at the stroke of midnight to celebrate the economic damage he has inflicted upon families and businesses the length and breadth of the country, and in the teeth of opposition from Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister pledged to “to go further and faster to maximise the opportunities of Brexit”. This begs the question: what opportunities? And for whom?

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During the referendum, Michael Gove promised that a vote to leave the European Union was a vote for British businesses to join “a free trade zone that extends from Iceland to the Russian border” with “full access to the European market but … free from EU regulation”.

I remember I denounced this as fantasy at the time – if you’re trading with a bloc bigger than you, their standards matter. But the UK Government’s continued insistence on telling the British public that leaving the European Union is something which benefits them – contrary to what we can see and hear with our own eyes and ears – suggests that “fantasy” is too kind a word. They are lies: lies promoted and peddled by Tory politicians who, as the “partygate” scandal laid bare, have nothing but contempt for the people they govern. Rules are for other people.

Returning to the question: who is benefiting from Brexit? The free and dynamic business environment promised by Michael Gove will seem an alien thing to the small business across the country who will spend countless hours of their 2022 filling out import forms and customs checks for any goods they are importing from the EU into Great Britain. At the stroke of midnight, these customs controls – thrice delayed – came into effect and now require anyone importing goods into Great Britain to fill out paperwork “at the point of import”, whilst also providing proof that the goods they are bringing into the country were produced in the European Union.

The regulatory freedom promised to small businesses by the UK Government has been shown up as a cynical and disgraceful lie.

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However, there are some firms which will reap the benefits of Brexit. These firms are not the small business owners that the Conservative Party pretends to work for, nor the farmers and fishermen they sold out with Brexit, but global private equity firms and multinational companies who are now free from troublesome EU regulation to extract more and more money from households already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

One perfect example of this is offered by the soon-to-be reintroduced mobile phone roaming charges for tourists visiting the European Union from the United Kingdom. Throughout the past four years, the UK Government have parroted the line given by international telecoms firms that there are “no plans” to re-introduce roaming charges for holidaymakers to the continent. Government ministers stood up in Parliament to say this, telling constituents and journalists alike that private firms – apparently out of the goodness of their heart – would not re-introduce these charges.

Yet now, just days after Prime Minster bleats about the opportunities that Brexit provides, Vodafone will bring back roaming charges of up to £2 per day for UK tourists, with EE and 3 following quickly behind them.

I remember the negotiations in Brussels over the roaming package, the mobile phone companies fought us tooth and nail – of course they are, now the legal protection the EU granted us is gone, reintroducing them.

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When Michael Gove said regulatory freedom, he meant that multinational firms would have more freedom to hike up their prices. You didn’t think he meant for working people, did you?

With their damaging Brexit, the Tories have shown their true colours once again: as the party of faceless global capital rather than the champion of home-grown business and British farmers they pretend to be. There is not, and will never be, a Brexit dividend for working people.

Let 2022 be the year that the Tories are finally confronted with the truth.