I never thought that I’d right this blog post: I’ve been constantly calling for a rethink on Brexit for a succession of years. The principal reason for this being is that I believe the electorate, presented with binary options which offered no direction, were not informed enough.
We know that the two Leave campaigns both lied. We know that they used incredibly dodgy social media techniques which should already be illegal in the form of Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, deliberately preying on voters’ fears based on their personality profiles. We also know that they repeatedly lied: Hell, even Nigel Farage supported a Norway-style deal during the campaign.
We were told by the Leave campaign that it would be “the easiest negotiation in the history of trade deals,” to quote Dr Liam Fox MP directly and to paraphrase others.
Those of us on the Remain side knew otherwise. First, I knew from the second that the referendum was called that the European Union would make it as impossible as possible to get a deal: What precedent would this set for other member states getting similar ideas? I also assessed the gamble and viewed that it was not one worth taking. I still believe that.
In my younger years, I’d been a soft Eurosceptic, but to hear the ineptitude of those such as Iain Duncan Smith (who, when I’d worked in politics, I’d quipped as Irritating Dense Shit) making absurd arguments during the campaign made me a hardened Europhile. This was solely because I was concerned about the inevitable recession, now hearing out (we have only one more period of contraction to go), and inviting an act of economic self-harm.
Recessions hurt the people for who the Leave campaigns claimed to speak more than anything else. Recessions mean job losses. They especially mean job losses in the North, where they’d managed to whip up enough of a frenzy on migration and the idea that “taking back control” would result in some form of a resurgence of Rule Britannia.
It means that car plants will have, at the very least, temporary closures. Many are moving. Rolls Royce in Derby has laid off employees and continues to do so because of Brexit.
They lied. They were wrong, they exploited people’s fears and they immediately abandoned the £350m/week to the NHS once they won.
That is, as we say, now ancient history. But it doesn’t feel ancient.
My concern now is that, for the past three years, Britain’s primary concern has been one of foreign and economic policy. Yes, I know that going through with it — especially a no deal scenario — will bring untold harm. Everyone with an ounce of economic sensibility also knows this.
There’s something else which concerns me more than the economy, and that’s the division that the country now faces based on whether they voted Leave or Remain. A highly intelligent friend of mine suggested that we need to see through Brexit because, otherwise, there’ll be civil unrest. Well, I think that Boris has seen to the idea that there’ll be civil unrest either way: Nobody is happy, and if the Brextremist no dealers get their way, there’ll be mayhem on the markets and riots on the streets. If Remainers do, a collection of skin-heads will make life incredibly difficult for everyone.
Either way we go, there will be a period of unrest. It is of course the government’s first job to prevent recessions and civil unrest if it can, but we are in unchartered territory now. This is the biggest nightmare that we’ve faced as a country since World War Two.
And so, here’s the rub. The only way that we can resolve this is an election, and one as soon as possible. Comrade Corbyn has been calling for one for years now, and even as recently as Monday. Swinson has also called for an election. But they’re now blocking it because they want to see the PM (of whom I am no fan) completely humiliated by being forced to ask for an extension.
Clearly Boris would not prefer to “die in a ditch than ask for an extension”, but the language used highlights a certain strength of feeling and a call to his audience. And this will work.
Emily Thornberry managed to get herself recorded saying that they’ll only support an election when it looks like they can win. Last night’s Question Time also made it abundantly clear that, if Labour were in government, they’d be campaigning against their own renegotiation. It’s absurd.
In 2017, it looked like Labour would be flattened in an election. They voted for it anyway. And they should now, out of national interest.
We need to finally put this issue to bed. We need a government of either colour with a strong mandate for their own approach to this situation.
A General Election is the ultimate “People’s Vote” and will be the only mechanism by which we can have the leadership that we need to resolve this situation and to start healing divides.
If we don’t do this as soon as possible, Labour will only continue to dip in the polls. The British public will not take kindly to the idea that democracy, in the form of representative democracy, is being taken away from them. When the news settles in that Labour are the principal drivers of this, floaters will switch. The great irony of this is that it will make Corbyn even more hesitant to back something for which he’s been calling for the last two years — almost as though it’s necessary.
Now it is, he, the Lib Dems and the SNP who are keen to block the only resolution to this scenario — and to get the GE they apparently so craved. It’s a tactical mistake on a potential explosive level: People will be angry that they can’t finally move on with this and get back to normal governing of the country. (With the inevitable recession if we leave on WTO rules excepted.)
I hate to say it, but Boris is right. We need an election. We need stable government. We need leadership. We need to move forward and stop the rot.