I’ll have to apologise. I wrote that I am sick of Brexit (which I am) and am now about to mention the dreaded B-word again. This heatwave (maybe now people will agree that grey skies and a chilly freshness is the best type of weather) is getting on my nerves, so maybe it’s gone to my head but I want to draw your attention to this piece by the political scientist Matthew Goodwin.
I’ll let you read it but Goodwin raises a point that has been nagging at me. That is, the amount of time being spent by the Continuity Remain Campaign on delegitimising the vote. Leavers were (and still are) seen as thick, racist, bigoted, ‘left-behind’, Little Englanders (a term employed by imperialists against opponents of the Boer War) and all of the other names you can think of. The Leave campaigns were really run by shady American financiers. Russian bots were deployed to promote the Leave message (as though they were in the voting booths too). Vote Leave spent too much and co-ordinated with a young chap from the up north to hoodwink the British people. 52% of voters were too thick to know what they were doing. They don’t actually say it outright, but the seething disgust at the lower orders is there. If you are unfortunate enough to be on Twitter, search ‘FBPE’ or look at the comments under Carole Cadwalladr’s posts, this isn’t the product of the reasoned, intelligent paternalists that we ought to listen to.
The next line will be that these hardline accounts are Brexiteers/Russian bots to divide the debate. James O’Brien said as much about splitting the Left over the anti-semitism situation. They’ll change that to Brexit soon enough. Carole Cadwalladr will be cheered on by the roaring crowds of people desperate to find a way to remain by a different name. As long as you’re onside you are not a bot and have a valid opinion, turn and it’s “gammon”, “racist” and so on.
If anything, all of this hardens my resolve to see Brexit to its conclusion. No doubt others see this sort of thing from the ‘Free Tommy’ accounts. That said, I am uninterested in trying to engage with such people, they are zealots and will never be persuaded either way. In that British fashion, such purist clap-trap of any opinion discomforts me immensely. My own view on Brexit, that we should follow the Norway option, is to achieve a workable compromise. Sell it to the Leavers as getting us out of an estimated 75% of EU rules and entanglements, and to the Remainers as keeping close relations with our neighbours. Whatever needs to be done to make this work.
Goodwin’s piece raises an important question about the state of academia at the moment. Dissenting voices are few and far between, whilst the ‘acceptable’ views reign supreme. And yet these people become Twitter famous for spouting meaningless platitudes about how they have risen to a higher plain and they are the future.
Another account I’ve recently started following is George Peretz. Mr. Peretz is a QC and, whilst he would probably back remaining in the EU, makes a valuable contribution. This is particularly evident in his response to Goodwin’s article. He lays out the fact that Remain focused on “unexplained economic fear warnings” because, to argue that we were too entangled as to satisfy all of the Brexiteers demands, would be to hand Leave a win on a plate. Likewise he points out that Leave were wrong to pretend that disentanglement would be easy and painless. He does also make the argument in his thread that the Government will find it impossible to satisfy the conflicting mandates given by people voting to leave for different reasons. I understand his point (you see, we can have friendly adversarial debate), and feel that the respective, and now unaccountable, campaigns have a lot to answer for, hence my dislike of referendums as a tool.
Peretz is right in saying that most of us, myself included, were ignorant of how deeply entangled we are. However, rather than remain, as some CRC opportunists would hope,because the status quo suits there fat lives, the Norway option presents a viable way out. Once there, we would be the biggest member of the EEA and so have significant clout to reform it over time. This is what Farage, Banks and others said before the vote. Their soundbites were what I used in trying to sell this idea (not that I, to my shame, had done nearly enough research into exactly why this is the best option, but just that I vaguely knew that emulating Norway was an attractive goal).
Many Remainers failed to understand Leavers’s motives and continue to do so. They still do not understand much of what drives their fellow man, which isn’t to say that many hardline Leavers are any better. If anything, Brexit is now imperative because we have seen how comfortable our political class has got whilst allowing someone else somewhere to make the decisions for them. Twitter can be a sewer and you’d be a fool to take the ‘FBPE’ mob and the other lot (I find a lot correlate with ‘Free Tommy’ but I can’t say for sure) as a reflective of public opinion. Alas, the media and politicians take it as such and allow it to guide their policies.
Brexit was always going to be a process. A process that, as any half-decent conservative would agree, has to be based on incremental changes over a long period of time. Norway offers that. We’re in an awkward position because people, many of them prominent Remain campaigners, shouted down Norway as ‘stay with no say’. This was a lie and so now the sensible solution is covered in muck and the wailing nutters on both sides are driving us to remain in or drop out completely. Of course, we could not (and would not) just follow Norway’s arrangements, but we had two years to mould it to suit our very different economy and make provisions for the Northern Irish border. We could have taken this new grouping of five or so states (Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland) and, in good time, re-cast it to better suit us. We could have had the free trade deals (not that chlorinated chicken and free traders’s wet dreams were my motivations in voting) and worked to restrict freedom of movement (through Article 112 of the EEA Agreement initially, whilst we sort out a permanent way to reduce migration from inside the EU and out of it). Now we’re down to soundbites and bickering.
I’ve said it before but once more to hammer it home: beware politicians baring referendums.
Image credit: CapX (cover image), medium.com (Norway option picture)