If you’re a Leaver of the Leninist type, a la Rees-Mogg, the parameters are clear. Everything comes down to next Tuesday: if the “meaningful vote” amendment passes, things look hairy. We’re in for a soft Brexit, almost certainly. At least, for now – they can always point to the fact that another prime minister can pull us farther away from Europe later. That’s a worst case scenario though. If the “meaningful vote” amendment is shot down, they are very close to a victory. It takes the ability to soften Brexit out of parliament’s hands completely. That means that when May presents her soft Brexit to parliament, the ERG bunch can vote against it with the knowledge that if most of Labour do the same thing, it will be hard Brexit here we come. Or a total re-alignment of the entire political system akin to a revolution in a few weeks, but you pay your money and you place your bets.
What I didn’t get, until I thought about it a little, is where the more, shall we say, centrist, practical Leaver is now coming from. What do they expect Brexit to be like? I know the Boris leak has been done to death, but it’s worth quoting this bit here for context:
“You’ve got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK? I don’t want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No panic. Pro bono publico, no bloody panic. It’s going to be all right in the end.”
What Johnson is talking about is the immediate fall out from a hard Brexit. The “meltdown” is any combination of flights grounded, ports backed up, empty supermarket shelves, possible civil unrest. This isn’t Project Fear any longer, this is what the government itself – what the Foreign Secretary himself – expects to happen in the event of no deal.
Now, I wasn’t thinking, “why don’t Leavers become Remainers?”, but I guess what I was querying was why the anger from Leavers isn’t more acute at the moment. Maybe it’s because not many people are really paying attention at the moment, but it still struck me as a little strange. Why aren’t people more upset about the 350 million a week for the NHS? I accept that it wasn’t the main reason almost anyone voted to Leave, but I still thought it didn’t add up. Until I considered why this group probably voted for Brexit in the first place and then it started to make sense.
It wasn’t about immigration – I mean, it was a little, but it wasn’t really the reason. It wasn’t about sovereignty, and it certain wasn’t about being able to strike trade deals independently. No, it was mostly just a huge middle finger to the establishment on behalf of the large portion of England (and it really was England) that felt it wasn’t being listened or taken seriously. This is why Remainers are finding it so hard to shift people around to seeing Brexit as a mistake, even though it is unfolding as a disaster in front of our eyes: they voted to Leave because they felt they were being treated like idiots, and so telling them they were idiots for voting to Leave is doing nothing to make them regret their choice. In fact, it is hardening it. If Remainers really do want to avoid hard Brexit, they should think about this a little more.
Paul W says
If I recall correctly, there were two or three post Brexit opinion surveys. According to the surveys, Remain voters were worried about one big thing – Brexit and the economy. Leave voters were worried about two different big things: sovereignty (in simple terms, the right to govern ourselves) and Immigration. The surveys didn’t agree which of sovereignty or immigration was the more important issue for Leave voters, but in reality being able to control national borders is one expression of sovereignty. The interpretation of the survey evidence by, among others, Professor Matthew Goodwin, is quite clear: there were and are two completely different national conversations going on here – right past each other.
Consequently, revived Whitehall cilvil service Project Fear talk about ‘flights grounded, ports backed up, empty supermarket shelves, possible civil unrest’ is not likely to be taken seriously by Leave voters. As Boris Johnson said, it sounds too much like ‘pure millenium bug stuff”: it serves to scare the pants off Remainers (and some ‘quivering wreck’ ministers), but probably noone else.
Still, Nick, I think you overlook a couple of important factors. First, having been invited by Parliament to express their views on remaining in, or leaving the European Union, Leave voters now find their 17.4 million individual choices risk being consigned, in effect, to the boilers of Downing Street. This offends against democratic sensibilities and runs counter to the national sense of fair play. Even some of the original Remainers don’t appear to support this kind of democratic backtracking – up to half of the 48%-ers, if the opinion surveys are to be believed. Only about one-quarter of voters are core Remainers now.
Second, Leavers won’t have failed to notice the buckets of post-referendum sneering, condescension and abuse poured over them by the Remain campaign and its acolytes. Nor will they have missed the fact that, by and large, the most metropolitan and well-heeled parts of the UK voted Remain. There are underlying elements of class, regional and cultural warfare going on here. The Remain-minded establishment has long been used to setting the agendas and dominating the national debate as a prelude to getting its own way – this is what happened in the shockingly one-sided EEC referendum campaign of 1975.
But this time round the great unwashed failed to follow the cues of their social ‘superiors’ and turned the tables on them, perhaps because the same establishment had too many failures to account for – everything from expenses scandals and banking crises, to broken promises on tuition fees and austerity. And unlike 1975, on this occasion the voters had more varied sources of information to consult.
Yet to my mind the condescension and abuse – and what it reveals about the thwarted mindset of the continuity Remain campaign – is one of the most unpleasant features of post-Brexit politics: it is guaranteed to get the backs up of Leave voters and, on current form, it won’t succeed in winning over their hearts and minds. And, frankly, it won’t deserve to either.
So, yes, I am not surprised there is something of ‘the huge middle finger to the establishment’ here from a large proportion of England (and, I am told, Wales feels much the same). And it is somehow only fitting that this middle finger to the Remain-minded establishment should be accompanied by an Agincourt salute from the yeoman archers of Leave in England and Wales towards the knights of Remain in Brussels, Dublin and Berlin for good measure. What else can one expect when the opinions of the British electorate are asked for and then treated with such blantant disregard?
It wasn’t about sovereignty, […] it was mostly just a huge middle finger to the establishment on behalf of the large portion of England (and it really was England) that felt it wasn’t being listened or taken seriously.
I’m not sure how you can disentangle ‘sovereignty’ from ‘being governed by people who don’t listen to you or take you seriously’. That sure sounds like concern about sovereignty to me.
(It was quite a large proportion of Scotland, as well, albeit not a majority (38% is surely a ‘large portion’), and it was, so far as research can tell, a majority of unionists in Northern Ireland as well — so not exactly just England)
chris moore says
Paul w said…….Second, Leavers won’t have failed to notice the buckets of post-referendum sneering, condescension and abuse poured over them by the Remain campaign and its acolytes. Nor will they have missed the fact that, by and large, the most metropolitan and well-heeled parts of the UK voted Remain. There are underlying elements of class, regional and cultural warfare going on here. The Remain-minded establishment has long been used to setting the agendas and dominating the national debate as a prelude to getting its own way – this is what happened in the shockingly one-sided EEC referendum campaign of 1975.
Paul,. I and the other 17m Remain voters are scarcely members of the establishment.
You also don’t seem to have noticed the “buckets of post-referendum sneering, condescension and abuse poured over” Remoaners by the metropolitan Leave press and the Leave campaign and its acolytes.; not to mention the lowering resentment and hostility of those who won the vote. and are now about to realise that what they’ve voted for is a pipe dream.
Paul W says
By saying “those who won the vote. and are now about to realise that what they’ve voted for is a pipe dream” you have just confirmed my main point. What is this superior knowledge that Remain voters have access to that Leave voters don’t? A special EU-provided crystal ball? Mystic Meg? It is a really bad look and won’t convince Leave voters.
Remember: superciliousness is not actually a superpower.
chris moore says
Hi Paul W,
So even expressing the opinión that it’s going to be a disaster is somehow unnacceptable?
get real, Paul.