Leaving the EU: In the interests of remaining neutral
Paul Steerwood’s response to HIP he didn’t think we’d publish
I don’t normally read this newspaper but happened to glance through it whilst working for a client. On the day that Anne Widdecombe was vilified for comparing Brexit to things such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the abolition of slavery, a charming photomontage caught my eye: an ‘Ascent-of-Man’ spoof depicting ‘natural’ progression from David Cameron, through Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and on to Mussolini and Hitler. I hardly needed to read a word of the paper to understand your stance on Brexit.
To paraphrase the Remain argument: it is self-evidently true that the world would be a better place (i.e. richer, safer and more tolerant) if we reaffirm the values encapsulated by our membership of the EU. By the same token, surely only fearful, bigoted, small-minded and xenophobic ‘Little Englanders’ could possibly be swayed by the lies perpetrated by the irresponsible Leave campaigners. Is that a fair précis?
Firstly, Federal Europe never was, and still isn’t, anything to do with ‘making the world a better place’ (just ask any African farmer, or Greek one come to that); it was designed with the sole intention of making Europe richer, stronger and with greater influence over world affairs. In the aftermath of the war, Germany and France simply saw the futility of their past behaviour, looked across the Atlantic to the booming federation that was America and instigated their own equivalent. The very germination of the EU was drenched with a desire to cling on to dwindling colonial power and world influence. In fact, unlike Britain, one European country (France) did attempt to retain its actual colonies: the result? Algeria and Vietnam.
hardly needed to read a word of the paper to understand your stance on Brexit.”
A belief in the very idea of the EU displays the Eurocentric conceit that if Europe is a better place, eventually, ‘the world’ will be also. Like colonial Europeans have done for hundreds of years, it conflates European considerations with world ones. Far from benefiting the rest of the world, the EU, working in conjunction with the International Money Fund (IMF) and the Federal Reserve, is a part of the global system which keeps its poorer parts in their place. Wealth doesn’t ‘trickle down’ from Europe to Africa any more than it does from Sir Phillip Green’s yacht to an ex-BHS worker in Barnsley. Actually we’re on the same side we all want the world to be a better place. But the idea that it will happen via the EU is as likely as ‘World Peace’ being achieved by a ‘Miss America’ beauty queen.
The belief that ‘Little-Englander’ Brexit voters pine for Britain’s colonial past is diametrically incorrect. In my experience, they look hopefully to a future as part of the whole world. The point about leaving the EU is that the UK can now look the other 164(?) countries of the world straight in the eye and say we have no desire to exploit anyone, we’re just the same as you. The Brexit vote was the moment we finally ditched our colonial past, not an attempt to retrieve it.
Generally, Brexit voters aren’t fearful, bigoted xenophobes. If anything it was the status-quo-inclined Remain voter who was the fearful one. In my discussions with Remainers, it is questions of wealth and job losses which seem to concern them most, not utopian ideals. I think it’s better for this country, and the developed world in general, to have less power, influence and money in relation to the developing world; and that is one of the reasons that I voted to leave.
And bigots? The term ‘bigots’ doesn’t equate with a politically right-wing xenophobic. The definition of bigot is an obstinate and intolerant adherent to a creed or view. That definition could be applied equally to people on either side of the debate. Remain voters were absolutely certain that Remain was the only rational choice. They couldn’t comprehend the idea of any fair-minded, sensible person coming to the conclusion that Leave was the correct decision. I’m not asserting that there were no bigoted racists in the ‘Leave’ electorate. However, what I am suggesting is that the leaving the EU [sic] will eventually take the wind out of their sails.
In the conversations I had with other Brexiteers before the referendum, two words came up far more than ‘foreigners’ or ‘immigration’; they were: ‘globalisation’ and ‘democracy’. According to Wikipedia, only 58.2% of the world’s population even has a vote. Shocking, isn’t it? Surely the liberal-minded, enlightened and forward-thinking EU of the Referendum debates should set an example to the other 41.8% and become an actual democracy? What is it scared of? We all know the answer to that one: its own people. The EU Commission has all the power and turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. The march to a fully federal EU will only increase the clamour for a concomitant fully democratic Europe anyway. If the EU were properly democratic, the very idea of a Brexit referendum would have been a non-starter. The subsequent result is as important to democracy in the world as Magna Carta, the Putney Debates, the Bill of Rights, the formation of the Labour Party and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I know it sticks in the Remainer’s craw now, and it may be a long way off, but one day they’ll be just as proud of the Referendum result as we all are of the post-war election result and the formation of the Welfare State and the NHS. Do you think Labour voters hadn’t been subjected to the same portentous threats of poverty and doom that Brexit voters were, if they didn’t follow the wishes and advice of their so-called ‘betters’?
The most staunch Remainer must concede that the behaviour of the EU Commission during the Leave negotiations was that of a bully; and everyone knows what you have to do with bullies: stand up to them. No doubt they are also deeply bitter that Boris Johnson has been voted in as
PM and is now allowing the possibility of a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit. (Believe it or not, I probably have a similar opinion of Boris to them myself.) But the fact is, if you’re going to do something, do it well.
I think it’s better for this country, and the developed world in general, to have less power, influence and money in relation to the developing world; and that is one of the reasons that I voted to leave.
Finally, if it helps, and inspired by the conclusion to Maya Evan’s interview, my advice to a depressed Remainer is the following: try thinking of Brexit as global warming. It’s a horrible, horrible thing which you really, really don’t want to happen… but it is happening. To quote Maya: “I want to promote the romantic image of everyone growing vegetables, people walking and cycling, exploring the beautiful British Isles as a key holiday destination – the generation of our grandparents lived like this, there are lots of benefits to this lifestyle, it’s not like we’re going back to the stone age, it’s just going to be a bit different. We do have the ability to change and change fast: channelling industry towards a sole purpose – look how this was done during the Second World War. It’s completely possible and beneficial on many levels.”
I have a hunch Maya will be appalled that I am quoting her in relation to Brexit and the average Brexiteer will be appalled that I am comparing it to global warming. However, I believe the green and Brexit movements have more in common than either would care to admit. Yes this is indeed a beautiful country and no, we shouldn’t be consuming jet fuel by travelling abroad.
If you are a Remain voter, I sympathise. You are currently being dragged, no doubt kicking and screaming and against your own judgement, by people whose values you assume you despise, into a process to which you are radically opposed. I realise that you will probably not believe or agree with me, but you are in fact involved in something which is actually a good thing for the future of this country, and indeed, the world. It just may take a while to become apparent.
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