Thursday, 20 April 2017

We're Just Not That Into EU

I think a case is going to have to be made for a new stage in the famous five stages of grief: one that is applied especially to those who are grieving for the result of the EU referendum. In addition to denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance must now come a demand for a new referendum. Of course there has also been: try and use the courts and the House of Lords to frustrate the democratically obtained will of the people, but they have tried so many different ruses and tactics these last 10 months we would end up with dozens of stages of grief and it would be chaos.

Look, we get it. The political class by and large are very upset about what happened last June. They're so upset that Ken Clarke, it seems, having announced that he would be standing down at the next election is staying on, either because he wasn't expecting it to be quite this soon or because he imagines that he can play a part in stymying Brexit. Maybe he wants to join that nascent new centre ground party everyone keeps talking about. His local association should de-select the old has-been. 

The mistake that such people keep making is that they imagine that, because the referendum result was quite close - although a million people is still the population of the country's second city - that means that there are 16 million people across the land who are as angry at what happened last June as they are. This is nonsense. There are some people who are angry about it, but most people have shrugged and got on with their lives. Indeed some people, even though they voted to remain are entirely relaxed about it. Because whisper it but some people believed the lies told by the remain side and the gloom and doom predicted. The remain side, after all, had all the advantages and cheated and lied quite a lot. Yet it still lost. Imagine what the result would have been had things been fairer and more equal, had government departments not issued thinly disguised propaganda dressed up as erudite research, had the government not spent £9 million on that infamous leaflet, had they not found an excuse to keep voter registration open for an extra couple of days to try and give themselves an advantage and had not most of the establishment been on their side. 

Britain has always been a Euro sceptic nation. We all knew that. So why is it such a surprise to the establishment that they lost last June? And why would they imagine, consequently, that the country is angry about the result? We are also a nation of democrats. We accept the result of elections and plebiscites. It's just the bloody politicians who have a hard time with it, or who, like Ken Clarke, are hostile to the notion of referendums at all. I invite you to read his recently published memoirs on the subject and not grind your teeth in fury at his condescension and arrogance. Generally whenever he came across people he disagreed with he dismissed their arguments as nonsense. He never actually explained why though nor apologised for how wrong he was about the euro. If you'd like to borrow a copy then I'll lend you mine. No, actually you can have it. It's a terrible book. 

But now the remainers are pinning their hopes of stopping Brexit on this general election. They are going to be terribly disappointed again and then probably angry and depressed and angry and depressed again. Acceptance is never going to happen. Democracy has never sat well with the European project. 

You have to ask yourself though what they imagine the rest of the country, people who are not fired with evangelistic fervour for the EU make of all of this. Because most people have got on with their lives. In truth most people, even those who voted to remain, never really believed any of the claims of either side. Remain voters probably decided to settle for the status quo even though they were not very enthusiastic. The remain side lost because this grudging vote was not big enough thanks to their inability to come up with a single passionate argument in favour of the European project. 

This election then will not hinge on Brexit except in the sense that people now just want the government to get on with it. They will trust Theresa May to do a good job of delivering a good deal and of doing so in a steely-eyed way as is her forte. They may not especially like her but they respect her. The same cannot be said of poor old hopeless Chauncey. There is simply no way the man should be allowed anywhere near Downing Street. And so he and his hapless party will lose and will lose big. It's really as simple as that. Brexit is a side issue except for a peculiar type of European anorak, otherwise known as the Lib Dems. And Ken Clarke. Even the SNP don't really care about the EU except as a wedge issue to try and get another referendum. They may well find that they have overplayed their hand there too. 

Ultimately the country just doesn't care that much about the EU. They don't believe that it has delivered peace and prosperity. They don't believe that we are all about to go to hell in a hand cart because we are leaving. By the same token they don't believe that Britain will become paradise on Earth with low immigration once we have left. Things will go on much as they have always done. But we will have control over our own laws, our own borders and our own money again. We will still go on holiday in Europe, still expect them all to speak English, still play football against them and usually lose and still have the best league in Europe but not the best players who will still head to more glamorous parts of our continent even though we have the best capital city. In short nothing much will change.

Indeed nothing much will change with our politics. In the same way that some adherents of the euro still refuse to accept that they were wrong about advocating our entry into that job destroying, economically illiterate, Germany favouring, bovine farce, so the remainers will never accept that they were wrong about Brexit. They will insist, however many free trade deals we do, however good the access we get to the single market, however good and cooperative a relationship we maintain with our neighbours that we were better off being constantly outvoted by them and forced to pay for the privilege of importing more from them than they do from us.

Because ultimately their belief in the EU is an ideological one. Ideology is entirely resistant to facts and rational argument. Indeed such is their belief it is akin to a religion. It's why they remain so angry and simply cannot understand why others do not feel as they do. And they still won't believe it as the election results come in on June 9th. Still, at least they will have Chauncey to blame for those. 

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