Well Brexit is fun isn’t it? It’s like this insane soap-opera suddenly turned nightmarishly real, as if Dirty Den and J.R. Ewing had moved in next door and were even now conspiring to rob us of our wealth, our dignity and our self-esteem.
One of the peculiar side effects of the debate is the tendency of remain voters to blame those of us who voted to leave for the current crisis.
The logic of this is the assumption that, by expressing our opinion on the ballot sheet, as we were asked to do, we were consciously voting for Theresa May to make a complete mess of it.
Well no. The mess is all hers. There were always other options available to her. She could have reached out to the other parties at a much earlier stage. She could have got cross-party consensus. We could have entered the talks with Brussels as a united nation and negotiated a deal that would have had general support.
That she didn’t is a consequence of her own inadequacies as a human being – her secretiveness and and unwillingness to share, her desperation to cling on to power at any price – not of my vote.
Meanwhile the country is terminally divided. The left from the left, the right from the right, friends from friends, neighbours from neighbours, even members of the same family are divided against each other.
The whole whole debate is characterised by dismissiveness and rancour. People from either side are looking down at each other as if we were members of entirely different species.
A friend of mine recently had an old friendship terminated with the words “there’s no room for Leavers in my world”.
According to a recent survey, one in six of us has fallen out over Brexit. More than two thirds say that Britain is an unhappier place.
Some people have done very well out of the EU, of course. Neil Kinnock, for example, a working class lad from a mining village in South Wales, was an EU Commissioner, and is now a Life Peer and a millionaire.
On the other hand there are whole communities in the old industrial heartlands of the Midlands and the North who have been left behind, who have seen their industries decimated, their jobs destroyed, and their standard of living fall. It was these people who voted overwhelmingly to leave.
In other words, Leave was a protest vote. It was a cry of rage against the whole political class, who have ignored them, and against a system which has drained them of all hope for a better future.
Perhaps you will say that this has nothing to do with the EU: that the poverty and deprivation in certain parts of the UK are the consequence of austerity, of neoliberalism, and the current Tory government.
Perhaps you are right. But the truth is that this whole crisis is a long time in the making. Successive Tory and Labour governments have presided over the impoverishment of vast swathes of the population, and this has coincided with our membership of the EU.
In other words, people voted the way they did in order to alert the rest of us to their plight, and, whatever happens, whether we stay in the EU or not, whether we hold a second referendum, or accept Theresa May’s universally derided deal, with all its complications, those very real complaints will remain and will have to be dealt with.
It’s not that Brexit has divided Britain: it’s that Britain was already divided, and it has taken Brexit to make us aware of the fact.
From The Whitstable Gazette 31/01/19
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