Once again, it’s been a while since I last managed to gather my thoughts sufficiently around one idea or subject in order to write a new blog post. In large part, that’s been due to starting a new job, which has been occupying my time and concentration to the extent that I can no longer spend as much time as I have been doing, gorging myself on news articles and social media feeds. But it’s also been down to the fact that when I have had time to read the news, or catch up on what’s trending on Twitter, it’s almost exclusively about the mess that the British government is making of Brexit. And dear God, where to start on trying to make some sense of my thoughts around that?
But finally, with the help of a truly appalling analogy, I am going to try. The journalist Hugo Rifkind, a few days ago, and presumably under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol or drugs – or maybe just suffering from Brexit burnout – composed a series of tweets in which he compared the vote for Brexit, to a decision to build a submarine out of cheese. Yes, really.
I saw the tweets at the time. And I ignored them. Because really – what is the point of even beginning to engage with such an asinine analogy?
But those tweets had legs. Actual news sites – admittedly fairly minor ones, but still – found something appealing in Rifkind’s ridiculous analogy, and chose to republish the tweets. And it wasn’t long before a friend in South Africa came across them and posted them to Facebook, tagging me, along with a couple of others, to make sure I saw them.
I tried not to rise to the bait. Because I already know there is nothing more frustrating than trying to have a sensible discussion about a topic as complicated as Brexit, on Facebook. But of course, having been tagged in the post, I had to respond. And so I felt compelled to point out that the reason the analogy is so ridiculous – and actually downright offensive – is because it implies that the British people voted for something that was completely fantastical, and that the only reason the government is making such a mess of delivering it, is because it is undeliverable.
The reality, though, is that the British people voted for something that, while a bit messy and complicated to deliver, was always entirely achievable. But the British government, and a few powerful lobby groups, are so determined not to accept the vote, that they have twisted and spun every possible interpretation of that vote to leave, in order to come back with a proposed deal that is so awful, so humiliating, that they hope we can finally be convinced to stay.
And so to correct Mr Rifkind’s analogy – the British people voted to build a submarine, but the UK government, determined not to build the submarine, decided instead to submit plans to build the submarine out of cheese. They hoped that by doing this, they would be able to then say to the British people “We’re really sorry, but cheese is our only available material from which to build a submarine, so of course we respect your vote to build a submarine, but now that you know a bit more about what’s involved in building it, maybe you’d like to vote again on whether you’d really like us to build that submarine”.
And oh, I know there are many within the Remain camp who think Mr Rifkind’s cheese analogy is brilliant and hilarious. Because of course what is funnier than pointing out how ludicrous it was, for 52% of the country to vote for something that could never be delivered in the first place? Oh how they love to laugh at those poor deluded idiots who were stupid enough to dream the impossible dream and actually vote for it.
Those of us who voted for Brexit have had two and a half YEARS of this shit. This bollocks, this lazy, contemptible mockery of our naïve belief in democracy, and sovereignty, and in the accountability of our MPs to us, the voters. So what that under our constituency voting system, 69% of MPs represent constituencies that voted Leave? We are discovering, to our disgust, that many of our MPs feel sufficiently safe in their Labour or Conservative majority seats to completely defy the manifestos on which they were elected, in the knowledge that no matter how much voters may feel betrayed over Brexit, they will never switch allegiances between the two main parties. Oh, angry Brexit voters may at the next general election choose to vote UKIP in protest, but in a constituency in which either Labour or Conservative command a significant majority, a few thousand voters switching allegiances to UKIP will make no difference whatsoever to the overall result.
And so instead of simply accepting the result of the vote, and vowing to pull together and try to deliver on it, we have had two and a half years of politicians and pundits trying to reinterpret the vote. Which really takes some audacity, given the ballot paper offered a simple choice between “leave the European Union” and “remain a member of the European Union”.
In the run-up to the vote, there was only one Brexit. We were told, over and over again, that Brexit meant leaving all the institutions of the European Union and giving up all of the benefits of membership of those institutions. We repeatedly heard the refrain “We will be out of the single market, and out of the customs union. We will no longer have a seat at the table. We will no longer be part of the decision-making authority”. We heard it loud and clear. And we still voted to leave.
But suddenly we found, having voted for Brexit, that politicians were discussing two possible alternatives – soft Brexit and hard Brexit. And no matter how much Brexiters railed on social media, that there is no such thing as soft Brexit, that Brexit means leaving the European Union and all its institutions, our voices were drowned out by the political and media juggernaut that had decided that “soft Brexit” could be sold as a compromise that would preserve our trading arrangements with the EU while satisfying Brexiters’ concerns about immigration (another sly reinterpretation of the vote, whereby suddenly issues like sovereignty and wider trading relationships with the rest of the world, got swept aside in favour of the eternal spin about Brexiters being xenophobic little Englanders who could be fobbed off with reassurances around immigration).
After all, “nobody voted to be poorer” we are constantly told. But just as our media loves to point out the irony that the areas that are least diverse, are those that are most concerned about immigration, it turns out it’s the wealthiest in society who are most concerned about any minor change to their financial situation. I’ve lost count of the number of wealthy middle class friends who expressed concerns about having to pay for visas to travel to Europe, or who worry about mobile phone roaming charges, or the falling value of the pound making their European holidays more expensive, or worried that their children may not have the same opportunities they did, to travel freely throughout Europe and pick up jobs in beach bars in their 20s (I have to laugh at this one – do these people seriously imagine that countries like Greece and Italy, with 40-50% youth unemployment, are going to provide summer jobs for rich British kids? These people, who supposedly love Europe and love feeling European, have a dire understanding of the actual state of many European economies).
Oh, they love to tell us how it’s the poorest in society who will be hurt the most by Brexit. But that’s just a vain attempt to try to hide their own selfishness under a false blanket of concern for their fellow citizens (“it’s not myself I’m worried about – I’ll be fine – but it’s those poor people who voted for Brexit because they were lied to”). No, the poorest in society – unable to afford to holiday in Europe and so not remotely concerned about the cost of visas and the value of the pound – are unlikely to be the hardest hit. It will be the comfortably-off middle class, and the rich businessmen and politicians who benefit from EU funds and EU regulations that protect their businesses from competition, who will most acutely feel the pinch.
And so it’s no wonder that we are seeing such desperate attempts to reinterpret the vote to leave as “a protest vote” rather than a genuine desire to leave. No wonder, either, that we are constantly told that people didn’t know what they were voting for, that we were lied to, that not everyone who voted leave had the same vision of what leaving would look like, that it’s only fair that the government should go back to the people and ask them again, what they really want to to do, now that we know so much more than we did before.
Well I’m calling bullshit on the whole lot. The only new information we have had in the last two and a half years, that we didn’t have before the vote, is about the extent to which our politicians will go to avoid doing the jobs they were elected to do. And the levels of treachery to which senior figures such as Nick Clegg, Lord Adonis, Ken Clarke and Tony Blair will stoop, to openly brief the opposition in negotiations, against the interests of their own government.
The British people were given a choice – to either remain a member of the EU, or to leave the EU. We were told that this was a once-in-a lifetime choice and that it would be implemented – no matter how narrow the margin of the decision. We chose to leave the EU and it’s time our political class accepted that decision and got on with implementing it – and time they stopped trying to either hoodwink us into accepting a deal that ties us to the EU in perpetuity, or trying to get us to vote again.
We didn’t vote for a submarine built of cheese – it’s time for the cowards and the liars within our political class to stop pretending that we did.