Brexit Goes Tits Up

I can’t think of anything to say about the Brexit farce/tragedy that hasn’t been said before. By my reading – which, so far as the internet is concerned, may be overly influenced by Google algorithms designed only to send me stuff I’m likely to agree with – just about everybody now accepts that we were serially lied to by the Brexiteers, Boris Johnson chief among them; and even most Brexiteers – apart from Boris, who may only be pretending – have given up on the idea that Brexit is putting us back on the road to a glorious future unknown since the British Empire was at its height. The best case they are making now is that it won’t be quite as bad as the Remainers claimed; and even if it is, we’ll still have taken back ‘control’: so there. Tell that to the Americans, who are slavering at the mouth for a trade agreement with our little isolated country that will subject us even more to their commercial requirements and courts! So much for the Left wing anti-EEC argument, that independence from the EU will allow us to build ‘socialism in one country’. No, it won’t.

I toyed with that idea myself before finally coming down on the Remain side, on the grounds that socialism (or at least anti-austerity) is more likely to be achieved in collaboration with our natural Leftist allies on the Continent. That belief – or hope – was strengthened when I realised that the kind of people who were leading the Brexit cause were, by and large, on the capitalist Right of the Tory Party and of UKIP, eager to use Britain’s ‘independence’ to lift ‘Brussels’ restrictions on, for example, employment and working practices. I also objected to the emphasis they put on ‘liberating’ us from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in order, obviously, to avoid the more socially-liberal laws the latter was subjecting us to. The ECJ happens to be the part of the EU I like best. European law was framed very largely by British lawyers at a time when British law was fairer and more liberal than most other countries’ had been in recent years, and only began to appear out of kilter with ours, at least to Conservative Home Secretaries like Theresa May, as the latter moved more to the authoritarian Right. I still regard the EJC as the best guarantee at the present time of what used to be historical British values. Conservative Brexiters don’t agree. But then they’re pretty ignorant, on the whole, of their history.

Lastly, among the reasons I voted to stay within the EU, was the sense of personal identity I felt with Europe, which the vote last year took away from me. Brexiteers argue that only one national identity is possible, or permissible, for people; ‘if you say you’re a citizen of the world’, as Theresa May memorably put it at last year’s Tory Party conference, ‘you’re a citizen of nowhere’. (Phew!) In other words, I have to choose. (This mirrors Norman Tebbit’s notorious ‘cricket test’ of years ago: that if you’re a Pakistani-origin Briton you shouldn’t support Pakistan on the cricket field.) But that is not the modern way of looking at the ‘multiple identities’ that many of us feel we have in these global times. Obviously very many others think like me on this. On the News this morning it was reported that applications by Britons for dual nationality with EU countries has more than doubled since Brexit. I’m one of them – applying for joint Swedish citizenship the day after the Brexit vote. I feel I was robbed of one of my identities by that vote, which is worse in many ways than being robbed of one’s property or prospects; which will probably be the effect of Brexit on its misled popular constituency.

If I’d still been doubtful last June, events since then would have confirmed the wisdom of my eventual decision. The ‘Out’ vote represented only 35% of the British electorate; OK, 52% if you exclude those who didn’t bother to vote, and who of course might well have voted ‘Out’ if they had done; but still a very narrow majority, for such a huge decision. Bearing in mind the disinformation that spewed out from the Brexit side, and the constitutional fact that the referendum wasn’t supposed to be mandatory, there’s good reason to dispute the legitimacy of that. Then there are the huge problems and complications involved in extracting us from the EU, as we’re seeing now, which, even if the decision had been marginally a good one, surely wouldn’t have been thought worth the trouble if they had been revealed sooner; the scarcely-disguised contempt that is pouring on us from the Continent (which I imagine the Brexiteers take as a badge of pride); and the bad feelings back here in Britain that the whole episode has provoked. That embraces the frightening increase in racist and proto-Fascist organisations post-Brexit, and of racially-motivated assaults; the vitriol that has been poured on ‘Remainers’ by the likes of the Daily Mail, which must, surely, reflect the weakness of their position; and, of course, the horrific murder of Jo Cox, MP. Before ‘Brexit’ I had no idea that so many of my compatriots could turn so nasty. If I was reluctant to commit myself exclusively to my British nationality last June, I’m now desperate to escape from it; for, I think, ‘patriotic’, or at least traditional British, reasons. (More on this in my next post.)

So: what can we unreformed ‘Remainers’ do? Our best hope is undoubtedly for a second referendum when the terms of our divorce, and so the reality of the choice ahead of us, are known. The Daily Mail charge that this would be ‘undemocratic’ is clearly nonsense. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2017/09/14/5743/.) In fact it would be our first meaningful vote on the issue. Otherwise the next best option would seem to be as ‘soft’ a Brexit as possible. In any case the wounds created by this whole event will stay with us. A soft Brexit will make the Brexiteers feel betrayed, and so still nastier. A ‘hard’ one will exacerbate the resentment of ‘Europeans’ like me. I can’t see an end to it, myself. But at least I’ll have a bolt-hole, if my Swedish citizenship application goes through.

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