One of the great political truisms of our age is that if Brexit were to not happen there would be “trouble”. I myself have engaged in this thinking, on this very website on occasion – it’s actually a hard assumption not to naturally fall into, if you’re in the Westminster bubble in any way, shape or form. Given where we are, it might be best to examine this conclusion in the cold light of day.
Iain Duncan-Smith said on ITV this weekend that:
“You think the country is divided right now, you wait until you try and hold that second referendum. There’s a very large chunk of people who will feel utterly betrayed and very angry, and I just caution you look across the Channel, we’re not that far away from that kind of process happening here.”
Basically, if Brexit doesn’t happen, we’ll get our own Gilet Jaunes running riot (literally) in central London. I could quote away from the number of Brexiteers who say something along similar lines, so let’s just move on. Anyone reading this has heard this idea espoused to them a million times from various sources.
One thing to watch for in politics that happens all the time is overcompensation. The 2017 general election is the easiest example to cite. Everyone was sure that the Tories were going to get a honking great majority and that Labour would be decimated. Then, Labour actually manage to gain seats. In response, pundits went into overcompensation mode and group think added greatly to this. Corbyn is prime minister in waiting and Labour are all but guaranteed to win the next election becomes the new truism. Except there are no facts to support this theory in any way whatsoever. Labour have consistently polled below the Tories in 2018 – hell, they have consistently polled below the Tories while the government has been in the midst of a profound crisis. Also, the Labour result in 2017 was, by any rational yardstick, still pretty horrible. In terms of seats, it was 2010 all over again. And there is nothing to suggest that any area which voted Tory last time would vote for Labour now. This isn’t to say that Labour cannot win the next general election – it is obvious that under certain circumstances they could indeed – it is just that it is in no way a certain, or even likely thing to have happen.
Now we move to Brexit and the supposed unrest that would occur should it not happen. Over the weekend, Tommy Robinson and UKIP organised a march through London to support the idea that Brexit needs to transpire. 3,000 people showed up, which given Robinson and UKIP’s collective social media outreach is fairly pathetic. There was a counter-protest march which attracted many more participants. Now, I want to be clear about this: just because only 3,000 people showed up for Robinson’s march, that does not mean you can come to the conclusion that no civil unrest would take place if Brexit were seen to be thwarted in some sense. However, it also anecdotally works strongly against the idea, which in the absence of real proof, is worth noting.
Here’s another thing to consider: what if Brexit does happen and it really is a total catastrophe? So, imagine Project Fear coming to life: diabetic children dying because their medicine can’t get through, supermarkets running out of food, water supplies getting cut off. Wouldn’t that trigger civil unrest? Again, I’m not saying any of that would happen in any Brexit scenario, I’m just saying……I’ll put this bluntly now. If you have a certain political position on the topic of Britain’s membership of the European Union, and you make a whole bunch of stuff up about what may or may not happen, can we at least just come clean about the fact that you’re making stuff up? And not even very plausible stuff, if we’re being straight here.
It seems to me that if Brexiteers want Brexit to happen, they should stop talking about Paris-style riots going down and start talking about why Brexit, in very specific terms, is such a great idea. They say Remainers failed in 2016 because they talked in nothing but threats. They should listen to their own advice.