Could Brexit have ever been anything other than a disaster?
It has become something of a truism to say it is insulting to the people of the U.K. to assume they didn’t really understand what they were voting for when they went to the polls in 2016.
But is that really the case? How much did they actually know, or more correctly, how much was considered? Very little!
Look first at the three demands made by the EU; budget contribution, treatment of EU nationals and the Irish border. I would guess that less than 5% of the population, if that, actually considered how the only land border between the U.K. and the EU would be affected.
Obviously there were budget considerations, but again, they centred on the ridiculous claim that savings would be pumped straight back into the health service.
The fate of EU nationals was very clear: The U.K. would sever all ties with Brussels, the European Court of Human Rights would cease to exist for anyone in the U.K, and anyone from the continent choosing to stay would be subject to U.K. laws.
Ok, so how did that go for Theresa May’s Government?
Did anyone vote for total capitulation? Could the U.K. have done better? Is a trade deal with the EU so Important?
Let’s take the issue back to its roots.
The origins of Brexit
UKIP was originally founded as a way of providing a counterbalance in the European Parliament but was arguably hijacked by those opposed to the basic tenets of the EU as we have them now.They were sufficiently vocal and radical in their actions to attract the attention of the populist press in the U.K. This led to a “populist revolt” fuelling the “all things EU or Brussels related are bad for the UK” idea and droving the belief that the U.K. would be better off outside of its influence.
It is true to say the EU had grown into a bureaucratic monolith and became its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Ever since Margaret Thatcher beat the then European Community into submission, gaining a significant rebate for the UK in its contributions, there has been a certain mistrust of the UK.
Mrs Thatcher especially railed at the size of the Common Agricultural Policy, which hardly endeared her to the French, and in particular her farmers – its largest beneficiary.
As the years have gone by and less and less people remember the Second World War, the young on both sides of the English Channel appeared to have bridged the mistrust that has existed.
In fact, this notion is used most by politicians to emphasize differences which is ironic seeing as the EU in its various guises was originally envisaged as a method of preventing conflict.
There is little doubt that the UK has, perhaps until very recently, allied itself more with the US than mainland Europe. Clearly President Trump’s bombastic manner and America First policy has dented that relationship. History, however, shows us that the bond usually prevails.
Put in very simple terms, the UK is becoming more aligned to the US with its adoption of Halloween festivities and the rise of the black Friday shopping bonanza – the origins of which few Britons even understand.
Until Nigel Farage came on the scene with his very particular style of playing the underdog, believing the world to be against him (which to be fair, in reality it was) the UK had moved to a kind of benign acceptance of its membership of the EU. Successive Governments from both ends of the political spectrum made little noise when successive treaties moving the bloc ever closer to Federalism were delivered.
Rewind to 2010
The roots of Brexit are planted in 2010, when there was a hung Parliament and (newly Knighted) Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, agreed to form a coalition with the Conservatives. Over the course of that coalition, which remarkably survived an entire Parliamentary term, the effect of the performance of each side was wholly underestimated.
Aside from the furore over tuition fees, it was assumed that the Lib Dems had performed adequately. This was despite their desperation to be part of Government while Cameron foresaw a disaster for the Conservatives plunging them into a long period of opposition similar to what followed Tony Blair’s victory in 1997.
Cameron was bullied by Farage and his supporters into believing that the Conservatives, without a major vote winning new policy, would be routed. The Liberal Democrats in the meantime were blissfully unaware of the fact that their supporters, particularly in Scotland, were preparing to leave them in droves.
Cameron, or his advisors, concerned the Conservative Party vote would be split by UKIP since polls were seeing an upsurge in support for their nationalistic jingoism at a grassroots level, missed one major factor that basically changed the course of history: The Labour Party had become totally and utterly unelectable. They had few policies, and those they had were outdated and outmoded.
They were led into the election by an extremely unpopular leader in Ed Miliband who was so wrought by gaffes that his race was run long before polling day.
Cameron’s decision to offer a referendum with a simple yes or no question on the UK’s membership of the EU was both crass and totally unresearched. Farage probably couldn’t believe his luck while Cameron simply, and wrongly, assumed a populace also as driven by benign indifference that people would fail to vote or those that did would vote for the status quo.
In the event there was a 72.2% turnout and the majority, driven by Farage’s rhetoric, voted in favour of departure from the EU and finished Cameron’s political career.