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Dear Leavebugs, it’s time to admit your mistake
Recklessness is all that’s open to Brexiteers now
‘Brexit,’ says my friend David Aaronovitch, ‘is dying.’ We Remainer irreconcilables certainly hope so. But there’s a slim chance the grisly Brexit project could yet pull through, and it’s right to acknowledge this. So in a spirit of candid friendship I write this letter to die-hard Leavers, of whom a small — but vigorous — colony survives on these Spectator pages…
Dear Leavebugs, You know I am not of your number, but I understand you. I even feel for you. The Leave/Remain split is not a divide between two halves of the British population, but a war within the breast of each person. Every feeling you’ve had, I’ve experienced too. Civil wars are always bitter; wars within ourselves the most bitter of all.
As an understanding friend, therefore, though never an ally, I write to warn you that your project is in deep trouble.
I know what you really want. You just want Britain out of any entanglement that spans the English Channel. For you this is as much an emotional longing as a practical calculation — an antipathy whose roots go deep, back to the first and second world wars, to the Napoleonic wars, to England’s fear of the French Revolution; back (though some of you may disown this root) to Protestant England’s detestation of Rome.
Be honest with yourselves. Though you’re ready to assert the material benefits you say could flow from leaving Europe, you know in your heart that such calculations are secondary and speculative. They are not what drive you, but a posteriori arguments for an impulse that came, first, from your heart: an impulse that would survive the demolition of any argument of economic advantage. Admit it. For you this isn’t about money.
Shut your eyes and make a supreme effort to confess your inner motivation. What is your immediate, instinctive, unguarded answer to the question: ‘What if Brexit made us poorer?’ You know, don’t you?
You’d be disappointed, of course, and sorry. Impoverishment isn’t what you expect. But you’d still think it was right to leave. Your reasons are almost spiritual. They relate to our whole identity as a people; our nation’s soul; our place in history. They do not (you believe) sit easily on any spreadsheet of material gains or losses, but are about destiny. Perhaps only secretly you could contemplate the idea of being poorer yet prouder: of exchanging a bit of take-home pay for that greater prize: independence and national self-respect. You find haggling about GDP, chlorinated chicken and Toyota’s tariffs beneath the argument.
I, too, am conscious of those feelings within myself. But we have to remind ourselves there was never a majority, never will be a majority, and was certainly no majority at the European referendum last year, for impoverishing ourselves in pursuit of national self-respect. You know very well that it was fear of such an eventuality that you needed to dispel during your Leave campaign. Hence that ‘£350 million for the NHS’ you always knew was offside but dared not repudiate. You know you could not have won without such reassurances.
That reassurance has been shattered. Voters have understood we’ll take a hit. Few now believe we’ll be richer. People are coming to fear we would be poorer. You do surely know this is the way the mood is turning. You know, too, how the same mood is growing within the Lords and Commons. You may think this faintheartedness is misplaced, but you cannot think it is temporary.
And you know MPs run with the breeze. Can you still believe the ‘hard’ Brexit you favour, requiring Britain’s departure from the single market and the customs union, will ever get through this parliament, still less a new one under a new government? Your version of Brexit will either break or be broken by government.
This leaves you with two alternatives. The first is to settle (as you’d see it) for half a loaf, and reconcile yourselves to a ‘soft’ Brexit, with concessions to the EU on the European Court of Justice, on immigration and on the right to make our own trade deals.
To do this, though, brings a terrible risk for you: one I’ve have warned about ever since the referendum. This ‘soft’ Brexit on which you might fall back is essentially the ‘Norwegian option’. But you Leavers and we Remainers argued so powerfully during the campaign that we couldn’t see how being rule-takers but no longer rule-makers was better than staying a member. That led you to say ‘right out’ and us to say ‘stay in’.
Wisely, you Brexiteers dropped the Norway idea. Now we Remainers are reviving it. Beware. Ask yourselves why. Beware, too, Remainers bearing ‘transitional arrangements’ for the single market, customs union, and jurisdiction of the ECJ. Suspect a plot by my lot to procrastinate until you lot slip out of vogue. Deadlines for any ‘transition’ can be put back until kingdom come. Allow us to lure you into these thickets, and you lose.
Your other alternative is bolder. Cheat Parliament of its chance to vote down a deal by never reaching one. Keep your hostage in Downing Street and storm on towards the cliff edge in which we tumble out of the EU without agreement. Persuade public opinion that Brussels bullies brought us to this breakdown, negotiation is now impossible, and Britain must walk away — and damn the consequences.
Damning the consequences is all that’s open to you now. Double or quits: a reckless strategy that could destroy the Conservative party and land you in the rogues’ gallery of history, but it’s your only hope. You speak for millions, but unfortunately not tens of millions. Good luck Charles; good luck, James F and James D; good luck Freddy, Rod, Dominic, Douglas. The way things are going it’s double or quits for all of you. We who are not about to die, salute you.
As ever, Matthew.
To view the original letter CLICK HERE
Matthew Parris goes on to opine in similar terms of gloom and self indulgent Remainer self pity elsewhere:
Clearly Parris has a point and with his usual aplombe and style he highlights his, as often, pesimistic and rather one sided argument with perfectly valid examples.
I believe he is right in most of his claims but may I remind him, as he is a reasoning member of the remainers that there has always been a body of supporters of BreXit who have cautioned that untangling 70 years of deliberately duplicitous salami slicing of rights, liberty and democracy was always going to be a complex process.
Politicians of all persuasions were far too arrogant and hubristic to listen and in their belated realisations of how democracy works they find themselves only left with Johnny Come Lately commentators, who failed to address the complexity BEFORE negotiations began! and their own political bluster!
If you’ve a moment, research “Mike the headless chicken” (April 20, 1945 to March 17, 1947). Mike passed away 70 years ago but had managed to live headless (sort of) for 18 months, staggering pointlessly around to the amazement and horror of spectators in many fairgrounds, before finally choking.
Returning to Britain on Thursday I had been wondering what our Conservative government now reminds me of, when a friend told me of Mike’s sad story.
Can this really be Britain? Or has my homecoming ferry re-routed itself to a Central American banana republic where the congreso nacional has packed up for the summer holidays, the foreign minister has gone cavorting in Australia, the stop-gap president has departed to walk in Switzerland, the hairy Marxist resistance leader has started wrestling his own comandantes and the lugubrious Don Felipe, minister of finance, is staging a slow-motion coup?
Humour, though, is no longer a refuge from the disgrace. What have we come to? Like some dark moon below the horizon, a rogue force is wrenching us from our orbit, and nobody knows what to do.
But if you think the purpose of this column is to lament that crazy Brexit decision, you are wrong. Brexit or no Brexit, I have a different focus. A more precise focus than the scattergun commentary which has interested itself in “Britain’s” embarrassment, “the government’s” incompetence, “Whitehall’s” ill-preparedness, “the prime minister’s” inadequacy, “Labour’s” disunity or even “Europe’s” aggressiveness.
There is a main culprit here, and it isn’t any of these candidates. Labour didn’t cause this mess. Whitehall didn’t frame the task, even if it is ill-equipped for its execution. Theresa May may not be up to the job but it’s a job into which she has been forced. And “the government”? The government is a collection of individuals. Where do these individuals come from? Who nominated them? Who keeps them in their jobs? Search for the key word in the following text.
The Brexit secretary is playing it by ear with no guide to the melody
We live in a parliamentary democracy in which voters elect representatives attached to parties. The party as an institution has form, and voice, and policies. The party chooses a leader. The winning party’s leader asks the monarch for authority to govern and if she is satisfied that the party can support its leader in commanding the Commons, she gives it. The leader then chooses every minister from the party’s ranks, and leads a cabinet drawn, too, from the party. And if the party loses confidence in its leader or government, it can, by withdrawing support, dismiss both.
The word that keeps appearing in this passage is hard to miss: an entity, a real thing, the thing that’s now in charge of Britain’s direction. It’s called a party. It’s the Conservative Party. Do the voters even begin to understand how this mess is entirely of the Conservative Party’s creation?
The Tories are turning Brexit into a humiliating shambles. They called a referendum when they didn’t have to, they accepted the result, they willed Brexit, they promised Brexit, and now they’re comprehensively failing to organise it. You can’t blame the voters, who quite reasonably assumed that the Tories would never have offered a referendum if they hadn’t thought leaving Europe could be arranged. The fingerprints for this crime of mismanagement are Tory fingerprints.
The coming years will be a permanent stain on my party’s reputation
Thirteen months since the referendum and the Conservatives still can’t decide even the broadest outline of the terms on which we hope to leave. The difference between a soft and a hard exit is greater than the difference between staying in and a soft exit, yet the prime minister is still insisting that government policy is for a hard exit, while the chancellor (in her absence) says the opposite.
Nobody really knows what the foreign secretary thinks and I doubt he knows himself. The Brexit secretary, meanwhile, seems to be trying to play it by ear, but with no guidance as to the melody at all. And the trade secretary seems recently to have reconciled himself to three (or, if the chancellor is to be believed, as many as four) further years without any job at all. Some ministers say we’ll be taking back control of immigration when we leave in 2019, others that we will not.
And almost everybody has started to talk of a “transitional” period after leaving, without any hint of a consensus on what we would be transitioning to.
Every Conservative MP bar Kenneth Clarke voted in February for the triggering of Article 50. It now appears they and their leader started the countdown to Britain’s expulsion without even the vaguest plan for what we’d be aiming to achieve, let alone realistically likely to achieve. Worse, they pulled the trigger knowing very well that “Brexit” still meant different things to different members of the party and its government, and there was no reason to hope that divergent aims were ever likely to converge.
I call this criminal: irresponsible to the point of culpable recklessness towards their country’s future. The Conservative Party just thought they’d give it a whirl and all but one of them voted for the adventure.
Even in bad times, even when we Tories messed up, I used to feel a pride in the party to which I owe so much. Often too slow, sometimes too rash, sometimes wrong, sometimes mildly corrupt, often missing the public mood, occasionally cowardly, it was still possible to trace through the party’s long history a line of worldly common sense, a distrust of extremism, and a deep sense of duty to the nation. There was a certain steadiness there. Has this deserted us? Do we yet understand, has it yet been born in on us, that it is we and we alone who have led the whole country into the predicament it now finds itself in?
How shall I look in the eye those householders through whose doors I’ve been dropping Tory leaflets all these years: years that will be seen as a permanent stain on the Conservative Party’s reputation?
The prime minister has gone away. “Ladybird, ladybird,” we might cry, “fly away home! Your house is on fire, your children are gone!” Except that we’re better off without her flapping around, spouting implausibilities. Perhaps reality in the shape of Philip Hammond may gradually bear down upon fantasy; perhaps forlorn hopes may steal silently away and various fools, while not repenting of their folly, allow it to slip their recollection.
I hope so. I left Spain feeling ashamed to be British. I return to England ashamed to be a Conservative.
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With an avg. 1.2M voters per MEP & Britain having only 8%, if united, say. The EUropean Parliament has no ability to make policy and has a Commission of unelected bureaucrats, thus clearly the EU is not even a pretence of being a democracy; yet The EU & many of its vassal States are willing to slaughter people in Sovereign States, to impose The EU’s chosen brand of democracy on them!
The imposition of a Government and policies upon its vassal regions such as the peoples of Greece shows just how far from being a democracy the EU is.
There will be little or no change in Britain’s economic position, when we leave the EU, using a better negotiated & updated version of the ‘Norway Model’ as a stepping stone to becoming a full member of the Eropean Economic Area, where all will benefit, as we secure trade relations with the EU’s vassal regions, with an EFTA style status and can trade and negotiate independently on the global stage, as members of The Commonwealth and the Anglosphere.
Do not overlook the fact that politicians have plotted and schemmed since the 1950s and we have actually been vassals of the EU, when it was still using the aesopian linguistics and calling itself The Common Market in the early 1970s, a name the bureaucrats arbitrarily changed to EUropean Union in the early 1990s as they worked towards their long term goals of an ever closer centrally controlled Political and economic Union with its own anthem, currency, flag and rigid central control by its self appointed bureacrats towards a new Empirate –
It will take many years to rectify the mess our political class got us into and we have no other peacefull means by which to extricate ourselves than to depend on that self same self styled elite, who all too often forget they work for us!One huge benefit of BreXit will be that we can negotiate with bodies like the WTO, UN, WHO, IMF, CODEX and the like, directly, in our own interest and that of our partners around the world, in both the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere at large; rather than having negotiations and terms imposed by unelected EU bureacrats and their interpretation of the rules handed down, as if they were some great achievement of the EU’s!The greatest change and benefit will be political, as we improve our democracy and self determination, with the ability to deselect and elect our own Government, with an improved Westminster structure, see >Harrogate Agenda<.
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