The thought that our current Government should even contemplate a ‘No Deal’ exit from the EU, or Philip Hammond should call the EU “our enemy”, is sheer lunacy. In contrast, let’s remember the Leave campaign told voters that the UK could look forward to “sunny uplands” of progress post-Brexit – in other words, the complete opposite of the economic suicide, with catastrophic social consequences, now staring the UK in the face.
Indeed, you’ll remember that the Leave Campaign’s promises included:
- A post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU that will be the “easiest in human history” (Fox);
- “We can have our cake and eat” (Johnson);
- “We’ll get the exact same terms” (Davis);
- “£350 million a week” extra for the NHS (Leave Red Bus); and,
- “The EU needs us more than we need them” (repeated ad nauseam by all lying Brexiteers).
So, how does the UK now end-up facing the world’s greatest exercise in collective self-harm since the origins of humanity roughly 3 million years ago? Let me suggest a few potential explanations (by no means exclusive):
(1) Brexiteers (and their allies in the daily press) simply didn’t understand (and still don’t) either the EU (including net benefits UK membership has given us since joining, let alone opportunities for ongoing reform and development), or its institutions, like the ECJ (typically confusing the ECJ with the ECHR, which has nothing to do with the EU), or the EEA, or EFTA, or WTO rules, or the difference between a “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA), like CETA, and the unique benefits of European Single Market and Customs Union membership in removing non-tariff barriers to trade, etc. Effectively, they’ve sacrificed reality, and the best interests of our nation, for their ingrained belief in the benefits of Brexit. Unfortunately, evidence seldom trumps belief, unless people are familiar with the scientific method where evidence trumps belief.
(2) Brexiteers (and their allies in the daily press) deliberately blamed all the very real problems currently experienced by people in the UK not on Westminster, where the blame really lies, but on EU membership and immigration (especially from EU27 nations). This is totally ridiculous. For instance, when you think about these problems, like our scandalous, long-standing, national housing crisis (now compounded by the Grenfell Tower disaster and implications for other tower blocks across the country), how could you conceivably blame the EU, not Westminster? Back in the 1950s, when the memories and consequences of WW2 were uppermost in peoples’ minds, the UK built over 350,000 homes a year under Harold Macmillan. Now, we’re lucky if we build one third of this number of homes, despite significant increases in population, wealth and the technological capability to build pre-manufactured homes in factories.
(3) Brexiteers (and their allies in the daily press) chose to demonise ‘experts’. So, when every credible expert and world leader (other than US presidential candidate, Donald Trump) said Brexit would be a disaster for the UK, they were all ignored, in favour of the ‘snake oil’ salespeople of the Leave campaign. Recently, you’ll have noticed that Theresa May’s government is desperately seeking to recruit demonised experts in international trade deals and is profligately throwing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at ‘guns-for-hire management consultants’, like McKinsey and PwC, to advise on aspects of Brexit never previously understood in the first place.
(4) Brexit has become a party-political issue, rather than a cross-party issue. As Professor A C Grayling explains in his article in The New European on 28 Sep 17 (see http://bit.ly/2kj24GD), MPs are supposed to use all the working hours (for which we pay them) to decide what they genuinely believe to be in the best interest of their constituents and the nation as a whole. However, with “a few honourable exceptions”, as he puts it, they’re all now professional politicians focused on their own re-election prospects and their parties’ short-term electoral interests. Again, this has nothing whatsoever to do with our EU membership. Indeed, the ultimate shock-horror for Leave voters will be, if the UK leaves the EU, is that, just as our economy is crucified and our future prospects constrained, they’ll be left with the same, dysfunctional, party-politically-obsessed, self-interested MPs and political system that got our country in this mess and created all today’s pressing, domestic problems, such as housing, healthcare, social care, education, policing, welfare payments (including deployment of Universal Credit and the scandal of claimants having to pay 55p per min to call the dysfunctional DWP ‘helpline’), the North-South divide, acid attacks, etc.
So, what’s the answer? Personally, I suggest a referendum on the terms of Brexit actually on offer to the UK at the end of 2018. The potential benefits of this approach are that:
- If the exit terms are as brilliant as the Brexiteers believe they’ll, then former Remain voters will overwhelmingly vote for them; but
- If not, then former Leave voters are likely to conclude their best interests are served by a ‘Remain and Reform’ approach.
Please add your thought, as all comments really are welcome on this posting.
Author: Alan Meekings
Alan Meekings is a management consultant specialising in the field of Organisational Performance Management. He has led programmes of major change and sustainable improvement with public, private and third sector organisations for over thirty years. He is a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University School of Management, a Visiting Scholar at Heriot-Watt University School of Management and a member of the European Movement nationally and in Lincolnshire.
All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Conservative Group for Europe or the European Movement.