I watched Boris’s speech this morning. (See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/14/boris-johnson-urges-remainers-recognise-benefits-leaving-eu.) It seemed to me – and to a friend of mine who has been insisting from the beginning that Brexit won’t go through – to indicate a certain weakening of confidence on the Brexiteers’ part. He has obviously taken on board the Remainers’ reasonable objections, well put (not by me) in my last post here; which he gave faithful and fair expression to. None of all that ‘Remoaner’, ‘traitors’, ‘enemies of the people’ and ‘you lost: get used to it’ stuff that has been coming out of the Right-wing press in recent months, and which has so angered the 48% of us – or probably more than that now, with the oldies dying off. (The elderly were far more pro-Brexit than younger voters.) Boris sees, maybe feels, our pain; even, he claims, our ‘patriotism’. Is that because he has never been a committed Brexiter? Only an opportunist?
This was the most impressive part of his speech. The rest he spent trying to answer our objections, but with no substance or detail to back up his counter-arguments. So the speech may not have been enough to halt and reverse the anti-Brexit trend which seems to have been slowly building up recently; but at least it implicitly acknowledged it. As such, it could serve us Remainers as an encouragement.
Boris is right to say, however, that dropping Brexit now would create a storm of protest in the country, even amounting (this is my gloss) to civil war. That may be the most convincing reason to stick with that fateful decision made in the summer of 2016 – albeit as ‘softly’ as possible. The damage to our whole political fabric was done then: by Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on such a simple – but ill-defined – question; by a nervous Government’s decision to treat its result as mandatory rather than merely advisory; by Parliament’s shamefully going along with this; by the Tory press’s taunts and threats against anyone who wanted even to consider its legitimacy, or advocate a second referendum after rational consideration; and by Farage’s and UKIP’s stirring up sufficient xenophobia in the more deprived parts of the country to push it through. That’s a storm which may not be stilled; except by measures which will truly allay working- and lower-middle-class Brexit voters’ fears. In other words, a new social – I would say socialist – contract with the people. And that will take time, and probably stir the whole seething mess up even more on the way.
Ego desperatio. Is that right? Boris could tell me.