The Brexit Delusion…

I live on continental Europe and have no plans to return to Britain so there is a small but real personal risk, for me, attached to “Brexit”. Nonetheless, even behind the red, white and blue veil of ignorance I have what I believe are rational concerns with the concept as well.

I think Brexit is a waste of time and a dangerous risk. Firstly, it does nothing to address Britain’s gravest problems. Many voters were concerned about freedom of movement, and there are, indeed, problems associated with it, in terms of community upheaval and working class wages. Still, the worst problems with immigration and integration have nothing to do with European immigrants. GDP? Overall they add to rather than subtracting from it. Terrorism? There have been no Polish or Czech bombers. Culture clashes? There will be no major conflicts with European migrants if somebody, for example, draws a cartoon of John Paul II. Over the last year EU immigration has fallen and non-EU immigration has risen and I fear this is a sign of a post-Brexit future.

I appreciate concerns about national sovereignty but all the major recent errors in British politics have stemmed from independent government decisions. Iraq? The government. Banking regulation? The government. Dysfunctional state services? The government. I have no faith in our sovereign Parliament as it stands.

Who are its potential leaders? Boris Johnson, a prolific cheat, a fabricator and an opportunist. Sajid Javid? Nice enough, perhaps, but basically a liberal. Jeremy Corbyn? God help us if he gets his green fingers on the country. Again, I support national sovereignty as a general rule but its value is contingent one’s representatives.

Brexiteers are bursting with misplaced optimism. More precisely, it is toxic Whiggishness; flavoured with an idealised internationalism. Boris Johnson writes, in the Telegraph, that he wants a “Global Britain,” by which he means “a country that is more open, more outward-looking, more engaged with the world than ever before.” Of course trade, diplomacy and cooperation are essential features of our future but with grave domestic crises to focus on we should be looking inwards at ourselves as much as anything. Jacob Rees Mogg MP thinks, “Europe is the past and the future belongs to China and India.” Some conservative, writing off our civilizational cousins in favour of culturally different, geographically distant powers.

I fear that British Conservatives have poured all their outrage into their conception of the EU, and all their optimism into the idea of leaving. These, in general, are displaced emotions. Even if Britain avoids the economic damage that Remain supporters have predicted – and, frankly, I doubt we will – we gain extremely little. I am not a GDPophile and think that short-term losses are many cases justified by long-term gains. But the problem, I do not see the gains here. We are left with most of the same problems, and a government ill-equipped to deal with them, and perhaps the added annoyance of a thinner wallet. The “Brexit Delusion” of the title is not believing that Brexit is good – because while I disagree that seems like far too strong a word – but that it is a huge leap forward for the nation. At best it is a baby step.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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3 Responses to The Brexit Delusion…

  1. georgesdelatour says:

    On the eve of the Brexit vote, polls showed almost 45% of voters were committed leavers and around 30% committed remainers. There was another group, around 15% of voters, who disliked the EU, but who thought that leaving it was too high a risk; think of them as Grumpy Status Quo voters (GSQs).

    In the 1975 EEC Referendum, the 2011 Voting Reform Referendum, and the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, the status quo option ultimately prevailed. Vote Leave correctly understood that it had to turn around half of these GSQs if it was to win. The strategy was:

    1) Convince them there’s no real status quo to vote for. This was the easy part. The EEC/EU had changed a lot since the 1975 vote, and the direction of travel was consistently opposite to what a GSQ would want. And the EU of 2016 had clearly not reached the end state of this development, where a GSQ could say, “I don’t like it, but if this is the limit point of integration, I can grudgingly accept it.” Hardcore ultra-federalists like Jean-Claude Juncker could be relied upon to talk about creating an EU army, or something else certain to annoy a GSQ.

    2) Convince them that staying in the EU could be just as risky as leaving. This was the hard part. GSQs might loathe Juncker, but the EU is traditionally good at portraying itself as a force for stability and order in a chaotic world. Had the Referendum taken place 18 months earlier, I think Vote Leave would have failed to persuade enough GSQs and would have lost the vote. What changed everything was the 2015-16 migrant crisis. It suddenly seemed that one EU country could decide to admit massive numbers of migrants, and the EU would then impose their dispersal onto other countries against the wishes of voters. Suddenly the EU looked like the active agent of chaos, rather than the antidote to it.

    Personally, I’m sympathetic to your euroscepticism-scepticism. This was always the argument most likely to convince GSQs. But 2016 was the worst year ever to have to make it.


  2. Simon says:

    I sometimes half-jokingly quip that if Western European conservatives had more sense they’d court mass immigration but from Eastern Europe instead of Africa, Asia and the Middle East then cultivate the resulting large communities of conservative Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians as voterbases.

    Liked by 1 person

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