Thursday, 2 February 2017
The Inexorable Path to Brexit
By an emphatic 498 votes to 114, MPs last night voted for Britain to leave the EU, or at least to start the process of our leaving by invoking Article 50. There is still a long way to go, but this was an historic first move. Much as many MPs will likely have done so with profound regret, most took the pragmatic option and voted as the country instructed them to do. Only one Tory, arch europhile (for no reason he has ever been able adequately to explain) Ken Clarke voted against. Chauncey was hit by another mass rebellion in his party and even on his front bench with more resignations. He will once again be forced to have a reshuffle or make a fool of himself by inviting the rebels back onboard.
Ken Clarke has been widely applauded for his speech on Tuesday in which he opposed our leaving. He was even applauded by Labour MPs opposite. In truth the speech was classic Ken Clarke, in that it was long on style and bonhomie but short on content and context. He made the usual remainer allegation that his party and indeed the country has become anti immigrant when this is a travesty of the truth. It's like arguing that one is anti car by advocating speed limits. And he claimed that it is fanciful to claim that the world is keen to hand us free trade deals. There is no evidence presented for this assertion of course. There rarely is with Ken. He just asserts these things in that sing song voice of his and nobody bothers to ask him for any.
And once again, even at this juncture, it was the same tired arguments against the proposition of Brexit. Where are the arguments for our remaining in the EU? Remember we are still in it. Where was the ringing endorsement of that alienating entity?
Ken Clarke came to his Euro enthusiasm early in his chosen career as a politician, before he became an MP and before we even joined. He was partially responsible for our joining since he helped propel that iniquitous legislation through parliament. He cheerfully admits that he has never read the Maastricht Treaty and probably not Lisbon either. He feels no need to. He just knows that he likes and admires all things European. It's why he advocated for so long our joining the euro, a choice that would have been catastrophic, even more so than it has been for Ireland, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, France and Spain.
But this in truth sums up so many of our most ardent pro Europeans, including those on the continent. They like the supposed principles that underlie Europe rather than what it actually does in practice. In practice what it does is over-regulate, overtax, interfere and does all of it in a bureaucratic, dogmatic, arrogant way that infuriates those it affects. It is summed up by the likes of Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg, Peter Mandelson and Neil Kinnock to choose a representative sample of the over privileged elite who have so benefited from our membership. They disdain anyone who has advocated our leaving but can come up with no argument for our staying other than a wholly imaginary dystopian view of the world outside what is ultimately just a protectionist club with delusions of grandeur.
It is all redolent of that peculiar British lack of self belief that persuaded us to seek sanctuary in what was then the EEC in the first place. Our negotiators settled for a pathetic deal and lied to the British people about our place in this club. We were depicted as a grey country in decline and thus in need of the prop of EEC membership, yet our membership required us to be a net contributor every single year. That has remained the position of Euro enthusiasts ever since, pathetically grateful to be part of this vision of a united Europe, a vision that is nominally an attractive one except we all know the reality of it. 28 countries do not all work as one as well we know. Yet that remains the conceit.
It is the Brexiteers who are making all of the running now, not just because we won but because we are the ones with the positive vision for a better Britain, a Britain that runs itself, that decides who can and cannot come and live and work here, to whom and for what we pay taxpayers money, at what rate we set our taxes, with whom we trade and on what terms. After months of being denigrated by the remainers for a lack of detail the prime minister and her Cabinet have set it out as demanded. Thus Clarke and co fell back on their old phony arguments or lack thereof. Many MPs, Clarke included, also employed that old canard about referendums being only advisory, or complained about the millions who did not vote. What they tend to ignore is that the referendum was authorised by parliament by a heavy majority and the decision was handed to the British people. They also tend to ignore that the Brexit side had ranged against it the machinery of government, some underhand tactics and their idiotic project fear artillery. Yet still we won. Had the playing field been fairer we might well have won by a wider margin.
Remainers are bewildered by our vote last June. It is because they do not listen and are still not listening even now. It is why they still keep trotting out the same tired old arguments against Brexit and affect the same haughty attitude. But for all of their manoeuvres since the vote last year, their legal challenges and their amendments to the bill, it is they who are hopelessly divided and unsure of themselves. Tories voted almost unanimously for Brexit and were joined by most of the Labour Party. Even the Lib Dems were split on the issue with a couple abstaining, thus explaining beautifully why that shell of a party so recently in government is now such an irrelevance. The SNP voted en masse against of course but is readily heading towards a crisis of its own if they imagine that Brexit is a step towards their dream of independence that Scotland simply doesn't want.
And so history is heading our way. We still have many more months or even years of the remainers sadly shaking their heads at us and telling us how much we will regret this. We still have many more Guardian leaders imploring us all to see sense whilst staring at their latest losses and wondering why. The remainers still don't get it. Reality will take years to dawn for them yet. Many of them have only recently got to grips with our being right about how disastrous the euro is. The economy is still sailing merrily along the path to Brexit and still the gloom has failed to materialise. Britain outside the EU is now a reality. They have at least come to accept the reality of that as last night's vote confirmed.