Monday, 27 March 2017


Mel Cooper

Her Fairy Godfather
There is no question that Theresa May will continue to convince herself and the sadly misinformed and somewhat delusional 52% of those who managed to vote in the ill-conceived referendum that it is the “will of the people” to leave the EU. She will thus trip off a potentially tragic and certainly self-harming train of events that will potentially bankrupt the United Kingdom, destabilise it as a union and also go some way towards diminishing the moral standing of the UK in the world.

So be it. The attitude that led to the legendary headline “Continent Isolated” when a fog rolled into the English Channel before World War I is alive and well, unquestioned, and still responsive to the irresponsible, self-righteous, self-obsessed and narrow, venal xenophobia of the likes of Nigel Farage and Boorish Johnson. The UK did it again in the 1930s when it retreated into splendid self-regard and isolationist appeasement and clearly this new generation needs to break what is not broken so that it can show how stoic, independent and heroic Brits can be. What other explanation can there be for a total refusal to be honest or logical?

But to say all this is not to promote something labelled Project Fear: it is, rather, to try to voice for a deaf populace what I call Project Reality Check. No one is denying that the EU has its flaws. But it also has innumerable benefits for the UK financially, politically and even morally that far outweigh those flaws.

And instead of staying and contributing to a healthy, unified Europe a little more than half the voters of the UK are choosing to turn their backs on Europe at this crucial time and distract the world from what is important by creating a focus on Brexit that will seem so urgent that the really important issues can be sidelined. The UK has voted for ignoring the real crises of famine, of refugees, of terrorism, of potential arms build-ups around the world to concentrate instead on what is, in fact, the wholly unnecessary issue of leaving the EU. And why? For some misapplied nostalgia about redeeming or reviving a great past that never existed; because of a misunderstanding of the democratic system adopted by the EU; and because of a xenophobia that these Bexiteers keep claiming loudly has nothing to do with racism! Methinks the Brexiteers do protest too much.

On Question Time on the BBC the other day, 23 March 2017to be precise, one of the panellists – Church of England Priest and Guardian Columnist, Giles Fraser – asserted that Britain needs to leave the EU because we Brits believe in and love and respect Democracy and the EU is not democratic. And no one challenged him or this assertion!  No one said, wait a minute, how do you come to that conclusion? No one asked for him to explain what is so undemocratic about it! No one asked: don’t we vote for MEPs, those few of us in the UK who bother?  Is there not an EU Parliament?

Ah, but the Brexiteers cry; there is that terrible Bureaucracy of the EU that runs everything. Really? And if they recommend legislation, does the Parliament not get to debate it and vote on it just the way we do in Westminster? Does the much decried EU Bureaucracy, which represents 28 countries (well, soon it will be 27!) not meet more or less the same needs for the EU as the British Civil Service does for the UK? No, they are not elected. When was the last time someone in the UK voted for people to have jobs in the Civil Service? And if you think there are so many Bureaucrats in Brussels that it overwhelms the whole democracy of the process and that therefore we have to leave, have you ever counted the number of Bureaucrats you need to run Birmingham, or Manchester, or Westminster for that matter?

So, Biles Fraser, show me how the EU is not Democratic? Or less Democratic than British Parliament?

And there you have it folks. That is the reason that the Brexit vote is untrustworthy. Like Giles Fraser’s assertion about the EU’s not being Democratic, the vote to leave the EU is based on faulty information and on information that is not really understood. Not to mention a complete misrepresentation of the freedom of movement of people and what immigrant workers are contributing to our economy.

It is also based on misrepresentations about the money we put into the EU, ignorance of what we get back from the EU, and several other wilful misrepresentations. Never mind that it also means for Wales giving up a subsidy of £650 million a year from the EU that is far more than Wales contributes to the Common Market pot. Never mind that we are going to have to unpick and redo 43 years of trade agreements. Never mind that laws about things like how long a working week can be, women’s rights to maternity leave, and so many more, things we now take for granted, came from the EU with our consent, with votes from MEPs, and will now have to be refought if we are to keep them in the UK.

Never mind above all that we are turning our backs on Europe and that the rest of the world is not necessarily going to put British needs ahead of their own. Will we get a good deal? That will be in the gift of the 27 other countries, probably led by Angela Merkel, if she is still in power, who understand the needs for a balanced Europe and the dangers to an EU unbalanced in the general direction of a dominant Germany.

And above all never mind that we are contributing and giving permission by this decision to the various kinds of nationalism, racism and intolerance at a time when there are many problems facing us and the rest of Europe that can only be solved if we work together.

So let me be candid. Tripping off Article 50 is, to my mind, an act of irresponsible jingoism that can potentially trip off problems we have not even begun to consider. And why are we doing all this? Well, at least in part so that Boris Johnson can have a job and Nigel Farage can do whatever it is he thinks is of benefit to him now. Why else? Because people are angry. Because they feel they are not benefiting from globalization, because austerity as required by the past six years of Conservative UK government is no fun. And because the Right-wing press, run by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, have helped deflect the anger to the EU which is, actually, not the cause, and make the EU a convenient scapegoat.

One day, I predict, History will look back upon the Bexiteers the way it now looks back on anti-Dreyfusards or on people who backed the appeasement of Hitler over the Sudetenland in 1938.

Oh, it may not end up as bad as predicted. But the venal arguments that have driven this debate are, ironically, the least important ones to consider; while politicians like Farage and Johnson and their like, newspapers like The Sun, the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph, and their backers, have muffled or deflected attention from what should have been the real issues and debates. What is the signal the Brexiteers are giving out to people who used to respect and admire the UK; who used to want to come here to fill all those jobs that the Brexiteers claim are being taken away from Brist when, in fact, there are no Brits who are available to take them either because of distaste for the work or lack of skill, education and training that are required to be able to do the jobs?

Above all, we are abandoning the most hopeful experiment of international co-operation and peace in the world today at a time when, as the Brexiteers inconsistently keep claiming for the UK, we are better off together. If Scotland is better off as part of the UK, then how can you justify that the UK is not better off as part of the EU?

So the Bexiteers are encouraging us to be moral cowards. How brave of the UK to decide to desert the EU at this time, instead of staying to help sort things out!

Yes, there are flaws in the way the EU is being run, huge flaws even. Yes, there are blind spots in the way it deals with the debt of Greece or Italy, say. Yes, they need to debate again the whole concept of the freedom of movement of people and decide if there needs to be a moratorium. Yes, we need to act in a concerted fashion to help the refugees from Africa and the Middle East in ways that are fair to every country involved. Yes, the Euro was applied to too many countries too quickly for political reasons.

But what the hell do these xenophobic, blinkered and tribal Brexiteers think they have been conned into voting for if it is not narrow self-interest and self defeat? Well, I will tell you: not a great new independent future but exactly the same kind of narrow nationalistic self-righteousness that blighted the 20th century. Remember that statement written by a Brit about No Man is an Island? Well, clearly 52% of the voters on June 23 simply do not get it. And so, we can yet again hide behind the mentality of Little England that flares up from time to time.

The mendacious politicians who promoted the vote to Brexit don’t seem to believe what happened before or to know their history from the first times that Britain behaved as a small, offshore, independent island, so they are making us all do it again.

There will be tears. Britain, if it survives as the UK (or, I guess, England, if it does not!) inevitably will be diminished. It will have less influence in the EU, with which it does nearly 50% of its trading. It will have a less good deal than it has now. We didn’t want to be in the Euro, we didn’t want to be in Schengen, and they said OKAY! They gave us pretty much everything we wanted that they could. Where we did not get certain things it was because we were too stupid to ask, by and large. David Cameron was not the world’s most persuasive or impressive negotiator and his arrogant manner and sense of privilege did not help endear him to his colleagues in the EU.

But hey, they need us more than we need them. Michael Gove says so! Theresa May and Boris Johnson say so! and the whole world, especially the US, is gagging to make trade deals with us, especially that reliable and honest bloke Donald Trump, who is such a gentleman.

Dream on, buddies. Dream on about a glorious world in which Britain was so great and golden that we are now going to go back to that, reversing all the trends driving Globalisation and modern day politics and economics by simply not playing our part. We can show them! We can put the Great back into Great Britain!

Dream on about a Conservative government that is going to make up to the various regions of the UK, to education, to the NHS, to scientific research, for the money that will no longer be coming from the EU and replacing all that from the coffers of the UK government with the weakened pound and too few immigrants to take the necessary jobs or pay the necessary taxes.

And by all means withdraw from being a supportive, central and concerned member state of Europe. Hey, what gives you the idea we have any responsibility towards our neighbours?

Dream on about a future of greatness where people from the EU who are young, energetic and ambitious will no longer be interested in coming here and doing the jobs we need which also generate taxes, rents, economic benefits untold. Because they are certainly not going to feel secure or wanted.

Dream on …

And remind me again why we fought so hard to join the Common Market in the first place? Or why the EU is not democratic?

Or explain to me why, having claimed that Britain needs to take its sovereignty back, the Brexiteers are using every means they can to silence that very sovereignty and prevent it from working.

And what will you do if, as I believe, it turns out that you have made a mistake?

Well, do rush into Brexit. Cheer on Theresa May, her supine Cabinet and supporters.

Don’t pause to consider that maybe John Major, Ken Clarke, Tony Blair or the others might be trying to stop you from making a huge mistake. Do not even entertain that thought! Don’t pause and think or ask for explanations about everything from the £350 million a week for the NHS to how the EU is not Democratic make any sense at all.

Just go ahead. Jump off the cliff. Theresa May says the no deal is better than a bad deal and knows damned well that any deal has to be worse than the deal we have now once we leave. She is calling that Making History!

Do not figure this out!!! Do not accept that maybe, just maybe, you could have made a mistake and it might be wiser to rectify it now rather than over the next couple of decades.

And above all do not notice that already the pound is weak, businesses are nervous and you are very, very dependent on the good will of the very neighbours upon whom you have decided to turn your backs.

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