Since the Brexit vote last year, I’ve kept mum on the blog, though have retweeted the odd thing that others have written elsewhere. I do have friends and family who voted for Brexit and I do genuinely believe that they were not motivated by xenophobia or a little-Englander mindset. Though there’s no doubt that many were. But hardly anything has led me to change my mind about things since I wrote these posts before the referendum.
But now that Article 50 has been triggered, and we have a 2-year countdown, I’m more concerned than ever. I confess I feel quite emotional about it – so I will do my best to temper that! And as I say, I really did respect the merits of many Brexiteer arguments. The problem to my mind is that they don’t tip the balance. And worse, any who oppose Brexit are either ignored or accused of a lack of patriotism or worse. I have never been an unalloyed Europhile. I was hugely relieved we never joined the Euro – that would have been disastrous. I despair of the bureaucracy, corruption, intransigence and arrogance of the Brussels hierarchy – EU reform is even MORE necessary now than ever. It really needs a kick up the backside. I do believe that there is a profoundly worrying democratic deficit in the west today – and our EU wrangles were part of this. But it has been grim to see the widespread populist appropriation of that deficit to garner power, which is arguably even more elitist than those they displace.
But I STILL think that WE are better off, that the EU is better off, and that the WORLD is better off, with the UK inside. As my work takes me to countries across the continent, both in and outside the EU, I sense this acutely. At the last count, I’ve done jobs in 17 of them.
So my starting point is the complaint by the great satirist Ian Hislop at his most brilliant on Question Time, made in the immediate aftermath of the vote last year. The one thing he couldn’t have predicted was Theresa May’s leadership victory and cunning Brexiteer appointments of Boris, Fox and Davis. Clever. But not exactly confidence-inspiring.
Reasons for Anger/Frustration
48% voted Remain. That is not insubstantial. But we’re constantly told that Brexit is the will of the people. Well, I am one of the 48%. I need convincing to change my mind and accept Brexit. Seriously. Why is nobody trying to do that?
Both referendum campaigns were singularly poor. Remain was wholly negative and uninspiring (so-called Project Fear focussed only it seemed on reasons AGAINST leaving, rather than reasons FOR staying). Leave was simply mendacious and manipulative. Images of the Brexit Bus, with its absurd claim of recapturing £350 million A WEEK for the NHS, needs frequent sharing. It was disowned within hours of the vote. It means that a substantial proportion of the 52% were convinced by a lie. That in itself should be enough to call it out.
The Referendum had no legal authority but was advisory. It would not have been impossible for skilled politicians to find ways to reject it. In other countries, they just ignore them (I write this in Athens which of course did just that recently). And of course, the Scottish Nationalists are seeking to do JUST that. If they get to have another referendum, why can’t we!? Plebiscites are a notoriously bad method of decision-making anyway.
The big popular motivations for Brexit (unchecked migration, constitutional autonomy and the imposition of non-British legislation) seem misdirected. We’re still going to have massive migration issues; much fo the legislation that needs repealing was neutral or even beneficial; and how autonomous is ANY country in a globalised world of huge trade blocks navigating the choppy waters of USA and China dominance?
So help us out here
So this is what I need from somewhere. PLEASE. A serious, realistic and measured case for the benefits of Brexit. With arguments made by those who know what they’re talking about, preferably with an observer status that is as neutral as possible – e.g. from another country outside the EU. No rhetoric, just clear-headed, realistic arguments.
I do think that the west has a wealth-and-trade idolatry problem. So if being less prosperous and less influential as a nation is the realistic outcome of Brexit then perhaps that is no bad thing. However, as so often with such shifts, it is the “little people” who suffer most as jobs disappear and welfare dries up. If Brexiteers think this is a price worth paying for leaving, then just say so straight. We can learn to live with that. But they’re not currently saying that – the case seems to be one that we will be richer and more powerful. It just doesn’t seem like anything more than fantasy rhetoric. HOW can that be the case with so many years of uncertainty? I just saw this, for example, about Heathrow’s owner, and then Australia’s Foreign Minister has argued that Brexit is Ireland’s gain. Hard to fault the logic.
So please give me reasons really to be convinced by Brexit… I really, really want to be. Because that seems to be our reality now. But until I’m convinced, then I can’t see how to stem the sense of doom about it all. It’s hard to resist the feelings this cartoon represents. Is it unfair? Well, please convince me why.
The ground rules
So I genuinely do want help here. Simplest to add responses in the comments section, with links to articles or talks. I don’t want pointless online fighting – will delete that. Only constructive comments, please. So here are the rules.
Don’t give me vague hopes or aspirations of a return to British greatness.
Don’t accuse me of lack of patriotism or national concern. Don’t play the man.
In fact, No name-calling at all, or insults. They will be deleted immediately.
Don’t get all macho about how we’re going to negotiate and get a good deal for Britain. On what grounds? Why would Brussels seriously want that after Perfidious Albion has rejected everything it stands for? There may be a short-term gain for EU countries to give us good terms, but as time goes on, we’ll only become less of a trading concern, not more, especially because of what globalisation will continue to do with manufacturing and industry. Money always goes where money grows. It’s just the brutal reality.
If the only seriously realistic case is because of the 52% vote on one day in 2016, then why can’t we just stop this absurd juggernaut now?