Monday, 12 December 2016

Brexit - have turkeys really voted for Christmas?

I've rarely, if ever, used this blog as a political platform. After all, it's supposed to be (mostly) about wine. But one of the reasons I have posted just one single article in the last 6 months or more is that I have spent an inordinate amount of time on Twitter and Facebook, ranting and seeking solace amongst like-minded (and occasionally opposite) people about the disaster of 23 June 2016.

The following is a quote from a BBC article on the issue of a so-called "Hard Brexit", by one of 60 or so Tory MP's who want to inflict irreparable damage on our nation and its economy; Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham, who said: 

"As was made clear in the referendum campaign, remaining in the EU's internal market like Norway, or in a customs union like Turkey, is not compatible with either of these commitments and doing so would frustrate the will of the electorate." 

So, how exactly was it "made clear"? And who says it is "the will of the electorate"? I very much suspect that 95% or more of the electorate have little or no understanding of how things like the Single Market, EFTA or customs union actually work. And why should they? Most people have their own lives to manage, and prefer to leave the intricacies of trade agreements and inter-EU commerce to those much-maligned experts. Indeed, as someone who imports (wine) from the EU, even I don't have a particularly good grasp on these things - though I am only too aware that "Hard Brexit" would probably mean tariffs on wine and other goods (with obvious price implications) together with more, rather than less, bureaucracy and hoop-jumping. In other words, disastrous for small businesses like mine, and most probably for every other business (large or small) that imports goods from the EU. 

But according to Ms. Fernandes and her self-serving cohorts such as Rees-Mogg, Redwood, Gove, Duncan Smith, Fox etc (and, I suspect, a good few on the Labour side - this goes way beyond party politics), the prospect of economic suicide is "the will of the electorate". And yet, there is not one single commentator (including some of the more obvious "Leavers" at the BBC) that would deny the fact that - for better or worse - the one single issue that won the referendum for Leave was immigration. That in itself is a far more complex issue than most people (both racist and non-racist) could imagine, but the emotive aspect, as presented by the likes of the Mail, Express, Sun and (to an extent) the Telegraph, gave them an easy target. 

So let's be clear, the "will of the people" (or at least a shade over 1/4 of Britain's total population) is not withdrawal from the single market/EFTA/customs union or any other *real* economic issue - it is varying shades and combinations of "send 'em all back", "regain control of our borders" (which we already have control of), "freedom from un-elected Brussels bureaucrats", "sovereignty", "the whole world will be desperate to trade with us", etc. And if anybody wants to argue that they voted Leave because of issues other than those stated above (and it is entirely reasonable to suggest there will be some) I will say this - you are in a tiny minority. 

I've spent the last 6 months grieving and tearing my hair out over the utter madness of the 23 June referendum result. Let's be honest, in a year full of awful news, Trump was also a bit of a shock. But assuming he reaches the White House to begin with - and that is by no means yet a certainty - at least the US can vote him out in 4 years' time. 

But the prospect of Brexit (of any texture) and the divisions it has created in the UK presents the nation with the darkest, most profoundly disturbing issue it has faced in the last 70 years. Aside from the economic, political and social issues, it threatens the very existence of the greatest peace and cultural project the world has ever seen. And that is far too high a price to pay for "taking back control". 

As things stand - and in the spirit of the Season - the turkeys have indeed voted for Christmas. But if I were a betting man (which I am not) my prediction would be this: Once the lies have been fully exposed, once the offer is on the table, and once it dawns on "the electorate" that what they voted for is very different to what they are actually going to get, we will be offered a second referendum on the "terms". And pragmatism - or, if you like, a collective sense of self-preservation - will win the day.  OK, so my feeling is based as much on hope as it is on common sense, but as the saying goes, it's not over until the fat lady sings. Watch this space............