BREXIT: ITS DANGER FOR BRITISH DEMOCRACY AND HOW A NEW VISION CAN HELP
By J G Šmíd
A vote for Brexit was all things to all people. Those who wanted unregulated market forces, cheap labour and a privatised NHS voted Brexit. So did those who want to stop immigration, curb cheap imports and protect the publicly owned NHS. Many thought Brexit would make Britain a proud independent nation again.
Those who voted to remain defined themselves in response to what Brexit might bring. The pound would fall, the economy would slow down, and Britain's place in the world would diminish.
Sixteen months after the referendum, the county is divided as ever, still roughly split. However, recent polls suggest the actual result is now reversed (with 52% for Remain).
Remainers must repeat ad nauseam that the so-called 'overwhelming' majority was only 650,000 voters (the size of Bristol or Belfast).
Brexit cannot and will not deliver what it promised. Whatever transpires, there will be a large unhappy constituency. Yet we need to find consensus - without it there will be unrest and disappointment.
The only way to change Brexit is to change public opinion. Views about Brexit on both sides are deeply entrenched. The more problematic Brexit becomes, the deeper the sentiment. Changing public opinion is, and will be, difficult.
Brexit was conceived, designed and executed by creating false scare stories and offered non-existent solutions. Thus the dogma was created: Leave EU and all your problems are solved.
The dogmatic nature of Brexit is all too apparent: it is defined by itself (Brexit means Brexit) and is policed and administrated by 'high priests' who should not be challenged. The close parallels with religious fundamentalism, Soviet Russia, and Nazi Germany are worrying.
The writer lived in one European Communist country for a few decades after World War Two. Similarities to how Brexit is unfolding are striking.
First there is a declaration of a political credo which attracts enough support to create social change. But not all are convinced. So people with different views are declared 'saboteurs' and 'traitors'. 'Special attention' is paid to professional classes ('experts' in Brexit-speak) and the independent parts of the governmental apparatus such as the judiciary. Many are labelled 'enemies of the people'. They must be controlled through political overseers (politruk in Russian). Similarly, journalists not falling in line are attacked, and are eventually silenced.
As 'the dogma' fails to deliver, there is a call to control public discussion. Facts are only 'a point of view'. So, a government whip sends a letter to the Universities asking how they teach Brexit. The next step might be a ministerial decree about what the Universities should 'think' about Brexit. As the hardship created by the dogma grows, 'hard' believers shrink to a minority.
As Brexit continues to fail, dogmatic political movements, from Cromwell to Mugabe, move from censorship to oppression to dictatorship. When Cromwell was asked if he knew that only one man in ten supports him, he retorted "if I arm that one man, what is the problem?"
We cannot and must not allow that. It has become self-evident that leaving the EU is not a solution to all our problems. But we shall not change public opinion by exposing the lies, the failures, and the hardship. We need to change public opinion by offering a credible 'post-Brexit' alternative. Remainers must have a vision, strong emotional message and charismatic leaders.
Which is where the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) and other pro-European organisations come in. To fight Brexit, we must formulate an alternative vision for the EU and for the UK in the EU.
Forget about Brexit. Let's say what the EU should be like, and how the UK at its heart can play a leadership role in achieving that vision
... let's start working on this together now.
J G Šmíd
J G Šmíd is a member of the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) in the East Midlands