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Six months to Brexit: the sunlit uplands beckon

July 31, 2018

By Zoharby - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

If you are determined to win power, what better way than to be able to portray a current situation as a shambles which you are uniquely qualified to clear up?

One reason, perhaps, why politicians on the extremes would quite possibly be happy with the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, food shortages and all. Would it be too cynical to suggest that such minor inconveniences as empty supermarket shelves, queues at gas stations and life-threatening shortages of medical supplies would be a small price to pay for “the right sort of people” to form the next government?

You might think that those whose political maneuvering leads us to this state of affairs would take the blame for the consequences of no deal. But as we have learned from Donald Trump, there is no lie that cannot be convincingly delivered in the hands of a skilful liar.

It would all be the fault of the European Union, of the Remoaners, of saboteurs and enemies of the people.

Those on the extreme right, such as Nigel Farage, who seems to have an open invitation to air his views on the BBC, and now Boris Johnson, who has recently been having cosy chats with Steve Bannon, the self-proclaimed architect of a Europe-wide right-wing revolution, will not hesitate to blame others for the disaster they might inherit after coming to power.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jeremy Corbyn and the ideologues who control him will be just as eager to blame external forces for the mess – the United States, rapacious employers, imperialists, globalisers. And the Tories, of course.

Either way, the chaos that awaits us after a no-deal Brexit is an opportunity for both extremes of British politics. The question is which narrative the voters will believe.

And yet there are millions of people in the United Kingdom, me included, who have no time for extremism of any flavour. We may not agree on everyday policies, but if opinion polls are to be believed, a majority of voters now support a second referendum on the details of the deal (and presumably on no deal at all). If there was a vote today, we would very likely favour remaining in the European Union as an alternative to the rotten options that have been touted thus far.

But – and this is a big but – where is the credible political force in the centre that could marshal a new remain campaign? If the extremists have aims beyond Brexit, where is an equivalent line of forward thinking that captures public imagination among the mishmash of members of parliament who are allowing themselves to be dragged into disaster by the zealots? Where are the leaders-in-waiting?

The Liberal Democrats have been rendered inaudible by the sound and fury of the zealots. The most prominent voices in favour of a second vote are outside the centre of power. Andrew Adonis in the House of Lords for example, along with lobbyists such as Gina Miller and Mike Galsworthy, and media people like Ian Dunt and Alistair Campbell.

Grass roots will take a movement only so far. If Brexit is to be reversed, there will need to be more than a few awkward MPs like David Lammy, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke to stand up to the party whips.

Should a miracle happen and a second referendum does take place, how are we to avoid the flaws of the first one? Will there be another barrage of mendacious political advertising aimed at people whose perception is so contaminated by the previous one that they treat all arguments with equal scepticism?

Unless new electoral rules to combat fake news and campaign expenditure are drafted pretty quickly, the answer is probably yes.

And should we crash out of the EU, would a coalition of centrists form to clear up the mess – a government of national unity perhaps? Only after the damage has been done, I suspect. And only after the uncompromising operator at one of the extremes has managed to grab power. The devil, after all, has the best tunes.

So as we lurch towards March 2019, we a have Remainer Prime Minister who dares not defy her diehard Brexiters for fear of splitting her party, a Brexiter Leader of the Opposition whose supporters are overwhelmingly Remainers, and a much-diminished centre party whose leader whose voice is barely heard above the clamour – the only party, by the way, that officially advocates remaining in the European Union. Oh, and I almost forgot, and a nationalist party in Scotland that also supports remaining, but that will use the current mess in whatever way best serves their ultimate purpose of breaking up the United Kingdom.

Not a very pretty situation, considering that two years ago we were the fastest-growing economy in the Union and now we’re the slowest. Whatever the flaws of the entity we’re about to leave, can we really argue that we’re better off ploughing our lonely furrow on the edge of Europe, powerless and fractured?

It’s not too late to call a halt to the madness. Yes, I understand the arguments against a second referendum not mandated by the ruling party’s manifesto. But when we elected the current government we were unaware of the fraudulent nature of the leave campaign, and of the potentially disastrous consequences of no deal.

If they don’t act soon, our current crop of witless politicians will, I fear, be remembered by future generations as the worst in living memory.

And what really hurts is that the blame will be shared by all of us. Because we elected them.

From → Politics, UK

  1. Opinion Polls prior to the referendum generally told us that a Leave vote was not going to occur. And that the the outcome of the referendum would be respected and enacted by the government. A Leave vote did occur. Many MPs are now (disgracefully?) not respecting the democratic vote of the electorate. And the previously incorrect opinion polls are now telling us that another vote will result in a Remain win… If it doesn’t, maybe we could have another vote after that? Best of 5 perhaps?

    We were told by our Chancellor at the time that a Leave vote would result in almost immediate recession and huge increases in unemployment. Neither have occurred.

    Such “lies” from the leading financial person in the country (George Osborne) are now being diluted with: “Oh but we have the lowest growth (just!) in Europe…” etc. Hang-on, we were told immediate recession…?

    Unemployment is actually at a record low rather than a huge increase… (but, hey… we will forget to mention that now…?).

    And now the latest Project Fear campaign tells us: A “No Deal” will mean that there will be no food on the shelves… Really?

    • Hi Andy. To your point on Osborne. I think there’s a difference between predictions of outcomes that turn out to be incorrect, and Trup-size whoppers such as that Turkey was joining the EU (and that the country would be flooded with Turks).

      The problem now is that predictions of the adverse consequences are coming from much wider sources than those emanating from the ringleaders of Project Fear. Local councils, farmers, doctors, manufacturers, scientists, foreign investors and the finance industry for example. If such a diverse set of voices are warning of the perils ahead, should we close our ears and press on? Are all these people wrong and a few politicians right? And since when does any government worth its salt, when faced with fulfilling a commitment that it now suspects – two years later – is mistaken, nonetheless lead its electorate down a disastrous path, rather than reconsidering the decision, or at least setting out the risks for the electorate to decide?

      I see a second referendum as a bit like a surgeon asking a patient to sign a consent form after outlining the risks of a major operation, including the possibility of death, permanent impairment and so forth.

      The difference between now and 2016 is that we know quite a lot more about the nature of the surgery, even if we’re still not certain of the outcome! S

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