Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Depending on who is speaking, there are polar opposite views on Brexit, and not much between. On one side are the ardent Brexiteers. For them, this is the last chance for Great Britain to save itself from cultural suicide. Take back control of the borders and the legal system, to be free of silly EU rules. Reassert national sovereignty is the mantra.
In their realm, the people have spoken in a wave a popularism against the European project. Rejecting a narrative that peace will only come with a trans-national agenda, a blow lands on the complacent political elites.
It’s worth remembering that the European project was, in part, fueled by a repudiation of the nation-state concept. After two world wars kicked off in Europe, an idea germinated. Remove state control, then operate across trans-national borders to avoid future conflicts.
The Brexiteers see a bright future, in the sunlit uplands - Churchillian voice please - with free trade to the world. They see a Great Britain find a role it lost with the demise of Empire, at the centre of innovation and commerce. Banished is the old agenda of managing decline, which permeated policy since 1946.
Some people go so far to suggest a new Anglo-sphere of countries upholding Western values. They cite the election of Trump; another one in the eye for the established order. The rise of nationalism in Europe supports their view. Even the once mighty Angela Merkel looks compromised. She’s paid for opening Germanys borders to a million refugees with mayhem and unrest to the streets. German womenfolk suffered as gangs of young male asylum seekers behaved appallingly.
Under Teresa May’s lacklustre leadership, the ruling Conservatives stumble through the negotiations. The EU is at times petulant, at times pleading and then stern. Like a scorned ex-wife, they want revenge for daring to walk away
On the other side, the Remainers hold that Brexit is an apocalyptic event. They feed economic scare stories as their standard rant. Everyone will be worse off after Brexit - it is, and can only be a disaster. For them, Britain cannot exist outside the EU.
Those opposing Brexit seek to demonise the other side. Here’s Labour stalwart Owen Jones in full flow.
“It is a rallying cry for a noxious alliance of anti-immigrant demagogues and regulation-stripping free marketeers. The bigotry, xenophobia and racism stirred up by the official leave campaigns injected an ugliness into British politics which never dissipated, and left hate crimes surging."
Of course, Jones is part of the metropolitan elite that despises the Anglo-Saxon working class. He hates the lifeblood of the old Labour Party. Jones and his mates exist in the London bubble, and he dare not venture north to face the former Labour heartland. For that reason, he fails to understand why folks 'up north' voted out. Playing the ‘racism card’ with ease, he ignores his inherent prejudices. The disconnect new Labour has with its roots is stark.
Meanwhile, the Labour position on Brexit is far from clear. Party leader Corbyn is playing a game of deliberate befuddlement. If Labour committed to overturning Brexit, they’d haemorrhage as many as three million voters who backed leave. That would lose them seats.
Corbyn, it appears, prefers the posturing of permanent opposition, rather than the messy business of government. Then he can remain ideological, uncompromised, pure, disdainful and sit above the fray. H knows that being in government means having to make tough choices and real decisions.
At the same time, voices exist for a second referendum. That’s illogical because you could go on infinitum until you it got the right result - whatever that might be? It’s true that some who voted out didn’t grasp all the consequences. Then, you’ve got to consider the fact that the young proposed to remain, while the older folks wanted out. That has opened up another schism. That’s democracy at work; messy and imprecise.
Let's consider some stuff we do know. Great Britain hasn't always been in the EU, and others exist well enough outside its remit. It occurs to me that the only reason the UK will be economically worse off is that the EU is protectionist.
Yes, arguably, the EU has protected people from illiberal governments in the past. But why should we look to the EU for this? It’s hardly a great argument that you need protection from our government. If that’s a concern, sort out the national government.
I’d also ask who gains from the status quo. Certain institutions benefit and the types who populate them. Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson and others have made significant sums from the European project. Tony Blair is another one who wanted to get in on the game, although thwarted. These people have been able to mobilise others to argue for the status quo. Which, of course, first benefits them.
The vote to leave can’t be wished away as if it never happened. Brexit needs to occur so that the British public experience the consequences of their decision. Otherwise, this debate will go on and on. Fear of change is inherent, especially when no one, least of all Teresa May, has a clear vision for the future.
It’s probably too late, but worth re-stating. The great error of the EU was to bypass the wishes of the population. It structured itself around politicians-cum-bureaucrats, rather than rooting itself in democratic institutions and making sure that it had consent.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.