In the long-running battle of Brexit, slow progress is being made as the government moves towards its aim of triggering article 50. But arguments and oppositions rage on, led primarily on the public stage by the cross-party group Open Britain, and on social media by various disgruntled members of ‘the 48%’.
The approach being taken by these two groups is quite extraordinary. If we cast our minds back to the original referendum campaign, the key arguments for Leave were that the EU is anti-democratic, the EU parliament overrides the sovereignty of the UK parliament, the EU budget is hugely wasteful and is focused largely on making Eurocrats rich and supporting the failing Euro (of which we are not, and do not wish to be, a member), excessive EU regulations allow big business to thrive while stifling small businesses, we are not able to make our own trade deals with non-EU countries while in the EU, we no longer want to support uncontrolled immigration and we wish to take back control of our finances, our borders, our trade and our judiciary.
Remain countered with Project Fear, stating that Britain is stronger in the EU than outside of it, that we don’t know what trading relationship we would be able to negotiate were we to leave and therefore we are better off staying (better the devil you know), that leaving the EU would have a disastrous effect on the UK economy and that we don’t want to become Little Britain, cut off from the rest of the world, unable to trade on favourable terms even with our closest neighbours. There were also the arguments that our membership of the EU is the only reason we have not had a war with our neighbours for the last 70 years, and that leaving the EU would almost certainly result in an outbreak of hostilities. A few people on the Remain side reluctantly conceded that the EU is ‘not perfect’ and ‘needs reform’ but nothing was said about how such reform would be brought about – David Cameron’s failed negotiations in early 2016 were swept aside as irrelevant.
Social media got in on the act, too – memes were circulated depicting Remainers as intelligent, worldly and inclusive, while Leavers were depicted as stupid, racist and isolationist. Let’s call that Project Playground Taunts.
Now, given the 52% who voted Leave clearly were not taken in by Project Fear (a good thing, given the Treasury and the Bank of England have now admitted they got the forecasts wrong), nor were they convinced to vote Remain by being called stupid and racist, surely Open Britain and the 48% would realise that if they wish to convince any of those 52% to change their mind, they need to use another approach? Ideally, surely, they need to find a way of resolving some of the issues that caused people to vote Leave in the first place.
Astoundingly, neither group appears to have made that connection. Instead, Open Britain chose to wheel out Tony Blair, who, with trembling lip, beseeched us to think again, urging us to see the folly of our ways and the certain calamity that awaits our tiny island nation if we leave the protection of our strong European community.
This is simply Project Fear, mark 2. And on social media it’s backed up by repeated taunts from the 48% that Leavers are unintelligent, racist and isolationist, that we only voted the way we did because we were taken in by a lie about £350m a week going to the NHS. Project Playground Taunts, mark 2.
I’m afraid at this point it’s the Remainers who are clearly displaying a lack of intelligence. Let me spell it out for their benefit. I cannot speak for all Leavers but if Remainers wish me to change my mind, they need to show me an agreement with the EU that says the EU will no longer waste pots of money each month moving the EU parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg, that they will stop using the EU budget to erect ludicrously expensive buildings such as the Europa Building’s ‘Space Egg’, that they will allow us to determine our own immigration policy and strike our own trade deals with non-EU nations, and that they will allow our courts to maintain sovereignty over our laws. Calling me stupid and racist simply isn’t going to cut it.
The only way Remainers are going to convince Leavers to change their minds, to think again, is to engage with their concerns, take them seriously and stop trying to deflect their arguments with threats and taunts. If they’re not prepared to do that, it’s time for them to accept the fact that we’re leaving.