Since the vote for Brexit, countless articles and opinion pieces have attempted to understand and deconstruct the reasons behind the vote to leave. But surely what we really should have been doing over the past two and a half years, was trying to understand the reasons why 48% of the country voted to remain?
The decision, after all, was to leave. A government truly committed to delivering on the result of the referendum, had no need to analyse the reasons behind the vote – it simply had to implement it. Understanding the reasons why 48% of the country did not back that decision, was far more important – for how else could the government expect to assuage the concerns of that 48%, and attempt to get them on side, if not by at least attempting to understand their position?
I’m sure many people reading this will be incredulous that I can even suggest that no attempt has been made to understand the Remain mindset. With BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 panel shows almost always dominated by Remainers, many would argue we’ve heard nothing but Remain opinions. And that is true – but there has been precious little interrogation of those opinions. There is a vast difference between hearing an opinion expressed, and actually understanding the mindset that led to that opinion.
By contrast, we have had endless analysis and interpretation of Brexiter opinions. We have been told that when Brexiters say they voted for greater sovereignty, they really were voting to control immigration, that Brexiters’ objections to the EU’s plans for federalism and Ever Closer Union, are actually founded in a deep-seated nostalgia tinged with racism, a longing to turn back the clock and stop the march of economic progress. We have been told that the vote for Brexit wasn’t about Brussels or the EU at all, but was a protest vote against the Westminster Establishment. And we have been told over and over again that nobody voted to become poorer as a result of Brexit.
But what about those who voted for Remain? What would prompt otherwise intelligent people, to look at the failures caused by economic and political union and think “yes, let’s have more of that”? We often hear about how nobody voted to become poorer – but surely, looking at what has happened and is continuing to happen to the economies of southern Europe, and the impact it is having on the wider Eurozone, that is exactly what Remainers voted for?
When voters in Scotland and Corbynistas say that they would rather be ruled by Brussels than by Westminster, what is that if not a protest vote against the Westminster elite?
Could it be that Remainers, while outwardly basing all their arguments on economics and the need to maintain a close trading relationship with the EU, actually care far more about identity than about economics? Because surely if they actually looked closely at the long term economic prospects within the EU, they would see that leaving is the best option?
To truly understand Remainer sentimentality, we have only to look at their reaction to the recent letter, written by German politicians, celebrities and business leaders, and published in the Times, imploring Britain to stay in the EU. If Britain were to leave the EU, the letter’s signatories claimed, they would miss “going to the pub after work to drink an ale”, “driving on the left-hand side of the road”, “tea with milk”, “seeing the panto at Christmas” and most of all “the British people – our friends across the Channel”.
I was flabbergasted on reading this letter. Britain is not leaving Europe – we are not picking up our small island and moving it to Outer Mongolia, and we are certainly not cutting off ties to our European neighbours. The Germans – and the members of all 26 other EU member states – will still be more than welcome to visit, drink our ale, put milk in their tea, drive on the left hand side of the road and watch panto. And we will still consider them our friends.
But to so many Remainers, Europe and the EU are indivisible. They genuinely do see the vote to leave the EU, as a vote to leave Europe – as nonsensical as that idea is. And we Brexiters have clearly not done enough to unpick their reasoning, and to challenge that highly damaging view. Whenever Remainers have wailed about how xenophobic the vote for Brexit was, how we are turning our backs on our European neighbours, we have of course responded that we are leaving the EU, not Europe, but we haven’t gone to the trouble of actually asking them to explain why it is that they see Europe as so inextricably tied up in the EU.
What do they think would happen, we should ask, if the EU were to collapse entirely? Do they honestly believe that the French would not still be French, that the Germans would not still be German? Do they genuinely believe that the French, the Germans, the Italians and every other EU member state would immediately take up arms against each other and that World War III would be unleashed?
Sadly, I suspect many of them do. These are people who, for whatever reason, see their identity as European rather than British, and who furthermore see that European identity as wholly tied to the institutions and structures of the EU. Without the EU, these people believe, all that is decent about human society will collapse.
This may sound laughable to those of us who voted for Brexit – and even to some of those who voted for Remain – but it is the only explanation I can see for the frankly unhinged behaviour of some of the more ardent Remainers who still believe they must do everything in their power to stop Brexit at any cost. It is not Brexiters who need to be shown the errors in their thinking, and whose motivations need to be questioned and challenged – it is Remainers. And the sooner we all start doing exactly that, the better.