Why Are We Allowing Posturing Careerists to Prevent a Sensible Brexit Compromise?
Listening to the howls and cries emanating from Parliament in recent weeks, and particularly to the impassioned protestations and pontifications of senior politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate, one can’t help but wonder whether the individuals in charge of delivering the referendum result actually have the faintest idea as to just how pleased the majority of people would be if a sensible compromise were reached, and they never again had to endure another word written or spoken about the topic.
It is certain to all those of us who live outside of the Westminster bubble that the bulk of people from across the divide long ago grew tired of hearing about the issue and are increasingly frustrated and confused by the inability of their parliamentarians to make headway on solving the ongoing crisis. Most people who voted to remain are more than willing to accept the result of the referendum, but would like more than anything to see the risk of a ‘no-deal’ scenario taken off the table and replaced with a sensible, workable agreement. And many who voted to leave would find it spiriting and refreshing if Brexit could be over with and they could read in the papers about what is being done to address those everyday issues which in many cases were the source of the frustration and disillusionment which drove them to vote as they did in the first place: employment, the cost of housing, crime and disorder, and prospects for their children.
Instead, they get from their honourable members a frantic and delusional chorus of hysterical squarking and squabbling, beneath which all of the important issues which matter to them are drowned-out and forgotten. Politicians, journalists and other public figures continue to make little progress as they bicker furiously over the intricate details of backstops, transition periods and customs tariffs, while a bemused and increasingly impatient public looks on in exasperation.
On the Remain side, an arrogant and bitter vanguard of Blairites and self-proclaimed ‘centrists’ continue in their attempts to impede and reverse Brexit at every opportunity, being as they are highly indignant that ordinary British people should have dared to deal their seemingly relentless march towards globalism and internationalism such a mighty and inconvenient blow. This is hardly surprising given that the metropolitan liberals who have dominated party politics in recent decades can be counted on for nothing if not for maintaining at all times a patronising, condescending dismissiveness and icy contempt towards the thoughts and concerns of the very people who elected them to office.
What is perhaps more surprising is the way in which the leading figures amongst the so-called Brexiteers, most of whom are interchangeable, pop-up career-politicians who had little to no interest in the European issue until the referendum thrust it to the centre of British politics three years ago, have now become the uncompromising champions of a dangerous ‘no-deal’ departure. In the decades before David Cameron made the most calamitous political mistake of modern times by calling the referendum, the EU issue was largely regarded as irrelevant by mainstream politicians like Michael Gove, who remained undecided until as late as January 2016 but who now appears to fancy himself as some kind of crusader for a sacred cause.
It now seems almost unfathomable that the relentless advocate for a hard-Brexit, Boris Johnson, took even longer than Mr. Gove to reach a decision and to throw his lot in with the Leave campaign. And who now remembers the fact that Mr. Johnson himself had in fact previously expressed support for British membership of the common market, saying in 2012 that he favoured a ‘relationship with the EU that more closely resembled that of Norway or Switzerland’, and claiming in 2013 that he’d ‘vote to stay in the single market’?
Neither of the above statements should be particularly surprising. Nor should the claim made by one of Mr. Johnson’s friends that ‘he is NOT an Outer’. It is clear to everyone that the ex-Foreign Secretary is a committed social and economic liberal, and whilst his motives for mysteriously deciding to change his public position and support a hard-Brexit are of course his own, the obvious explanation – unabridged personal ambition – would certainly seem to be in-keeping with the character of a man who plainly enjoys being at the centre of public life.
After all, this is the man who has passionately endorsed the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), blithely dismissing the legitimate concerns of significant and learned figures from across the political spectrum, childishly brandishing them as mere ‘leftwing misery guts anti-globalisation campaigners’. The deal, which Mr. Johnson has claimed would have Winston Churchill ‘beaming’, would (among other things) see private corporations awarded the right to sue nation states for damages when their laws and regulations have been disadvantageous to them – a naked affront to the very national sovereignty and independence Mr. Johnson claims to care so much about, in the name of free trade and globalisation.
Almost all serious, principled opposition to British membership of the EU is motivated by precisely the opposite set of impulses. Veteran left-winger Tony Benn was deeply Eurosceptic because he understood (as Jeremy Corbyn surely still privately understands) that his very British, very 20th Century brand of socialism could only be implemented by an independent sovereign state with full and exclusive powers to make and enforce its own laws, and to put the interests of its people before those of multinational organisations. And, believing national sovereignty to be desirable in its own right, and fearing specifically that the UK’s unique common law traditions are incompatible with European laws and courts, conservative figures like Christopher Booker, Richard North and Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens were advocating withdrawal long before mainstream politicians like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove even deemed it necessary to take a side.
Interestingly, all three of these individuals with long histories of genuine, rather than spurious, opposition to the EU have been advocating a generous compromise ever since the referendum. Concerned that the dogmatism of the hard-Brexiteers may lead to a no-deal departure with terrible consequences, and ultimately to re-entry on inferior terms than those we currently have, they have repeatedly suggested that the UK should remain within the economic community while withdrawing from the political and legal union. This way, important conservative concerns regarding national sovereignty, law and liberty can be assuaged, without risking a ‘no-deal’ disaster.
Meanwhile, the bandwagon careerists recklessly champion the highly dubious idea that the British economy will somehow soar once it has been clumsily unshackled from its apparently restricting ties to the huge trading block on its doorstep, and incredibly remain almost entirely silent over such issues as the European Arrest Warrant – a very real menace to British liberty which genuine freedom-loving people of all political persuasions should be deeply concerned by.
When all things are considered, it seems plain that the old adage about empty vessels has been proven right once again. Those with the loudest voices on the issue are doing little more than advancing uncompromising, contradictory positions which serve their own cynical self-interest, unsupported by so much as a hint of genuine political conviction. But as the fools, frauds and firebrands of this modern political elite continue with their vain posturing, it’s worth (as it so often is) recalling the timeless words of the great 18th Century statesman Edmund Burke:
Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.
Let us remember that there are strong, persuasive arguments and principled, articulate advocates on both sides of the Brexit debate; and let us resolve to listen carefully to those with whom we disagree, that we may at last manage to hear beyond the importunate chink of the careerists, and arrive finally at an amicable, and very British, compromise.