Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Brendan O'Neill: The knives are out for Brexit – again

Is anyone else feeling less than reassured by Rishi Sunak’s promise that Brexit is safe? The PM has denied reports that his government wants to put Britain on the path to a Swiss-style arrangement with the European Union. This would entail being outside the EU but making payments to it, aligning with Single Market rules, and even agreeing to abide by certain EU laws, as Switzerland does. In short, BRINO (Brexit In Name Only), the old Theresa May vision of being mostly out of the EU but a little bit in. ‘Soft Brexit’, as Remainers like to call it.

Sunak says it isn’t true. Speaking to the Confederation of British Industry yesterday, he said ‘the UK will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws’. Phew? Not so fast. If Brexit is as safe as Sunak says it is, why are his own officials flirting with the idea of a Swiss-like future for Britain? These officials believe it is ‘overwhelmingly in the business interests of both sides’ to allow the UK to become like Switzerland, reports The Sunday Times. That members of a government tasked with enacting Brexit are dreaming of diluting Brexit is serious cause for concern. The people voted for Boris ‘Get Brexit Done’ Johnson and yet they end up with Maybot-inspired officials who reportedly want us to go cap in hand to Brussels to plead for Swiss-like compromises? That isn’t how democracy works, Rishi.

Also, what did Sunak’s own chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, mean when he said the government would break away from the old testy Boris approach to the EU and, in The Sunday Times’ words, ‘remove the vast majority of trade barriers with the bloc’? Hunt was a hardcore Remainer. We should make a ‘sensible compromise’ with the EU, he said after the referendum in 2016, and accept its freedom-of-movement rules in return for access to the Single Market. We are right to be worried when a man like that, the technocrats’ technocrat, speaks mysteriously of easing our relationship with Brussels.

Hardline Remainers, those who will never accept our clearly stated will to leave the EU, certainly spy in the reports of a Swiss move proof that even officialdom is changing its mind on Brexit. The Tory Swiss lobby’s briefings to the press ‘reflect a change in the zeitgeist’, crows a Guardian editorial. The thwarting of the Truss / Kwarteng budget by the ‘unimpressed markets’ seems to have been ‘the endpoint of a political trajectory that began with the Brexit referendum’, it says. And now we have actual Tory officials fantasising about Switzerland, confirming, in the Guardian’s view, that ‘the high tide of Brexit has gone out, and a slow voyage back to economic sanity at last appears to be underway’.

This view is widespread now. That the ‘zeitgeist’ is changing. That the ‘mood music’ is now ‘against Brexit’. That Britain is ‘starting to have second thoughts about Brexit’. That both the government and the plebs must now ‘face reality’ and recognise that our future is as a ‘participating member of Europe’s common economy’.

We are witnessing something very important: a change in the tactics of the Remainer elites, of those who’ve made it their life’s work to reverse what they view as the low-information public’s dumb decision to leave the EU. They are moving away from their more combative approach, from all those haughty anti-Brexit court cases and those strange demonstrations of the depressed middle classes where they frequently failed to conceal their contempt for the Brexit-supporting throng, and towards a more insidious, more long-game assault on the democratic will. Now it’s less ‘Let’s kill Brexit’ and more ‘Brexit is dying, naturally, at the hands of sanity. At last.’

These are precarious times for those of us who support Brexit and believe in democracy. The new Remainer strategy is to wear down the people’s will. To exploit our economic fears to try to convince us Brexit was a mistake. To marshal our energy woes and money woes to the end of exacerbating Brexit fatigue. Maybe then, dreams a Guardian writer, Brexit regret will become ‘an irreversible trend which won’t stop until it hits zero: no people at all who think Brexit was a good idea, no one who’ll even admit they voted for it’. They want to phase us out. Before, they wanted to silence us, void our votes. Now they’ve switched to a strategy of moral deflation, preferring the long-term diminishment of our democratic spirit to the sudden invalidation of our ballots.

In many ways this new approach of slowly fashioning an anti-Brexit ‘zeitgeist’ is worse than the old dream of stopping Brexit in its tracks. At least we knew what we were up against when the elites were combatively seeking to block the enactment of our will: anti-democracy. The new strategy is stealthier, more slippery. It presents hatred of Brexit as common sense. It tells us our lives will materially improve if we recant that silly vote we cast in 2016. It aspires to nothing less than a situation where there will be ‘no people at all who think Brexit was a good idea’. Complete deletion of the Brexit thought is the goal of Remainerism now. The pugnacious strategy of democracy reversal has been replaced by a more furtive strategy of fear designed to enfeeble and eventually erase our Brexit resolve.

Tragically, these cynical tactics are having an impact. A new poll finds that one in five who voted for Brexit now think it was the wrong decision. Officialdom is not immune to all this. In fact it is entirely logical that government officials obsessed with elite consensus opinion, with swinging to the ‘mood music’ of the cultural establishment, should take on board the new elite-constructed ‘common sense’ that says Brexit is the cause of our every ill and only its dilution can set us on that ‘slow voyage back to economic sanity’. This is why the Swiss whispers in government matter: they speak to a broader establishment conviction that the conditions are now right, are now economically hazardous enough, for Brexit finally to be dislodged and replaced with Switzerland or sanity or something.

There’s hope, though. One in five Brexiteers regret their vote? That leaves 80 per cent of us who don’t. Millions who still reject the fearmongering of the elites and who know that it’s simply untrue that Brexit is uniquely economically destabilising: just look at the Eurozone, beset by economic crises, some worse than ours. And, more importantly, millions who know what Brexit was actually about. It wasn’t about trade deals or economic boosterism. It was about democracy. We voted to leave the EU in order to strengthen British sovereignty. We made a constitutional demand, not an economic one. Brexit is working just fine, thanks. We are no longer beholden to laws drawn up by distant institutions over which we have no direct democratic control. That’s what we wanted. Brexit is a success, a brilliant, historic one. That the Remainer elites cannot see this says infinitely more about them than it does about us.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer. This article was first published HERE


Mark Hanley said...

Like many on the left of politics who do not understand why their ideals do not stand up to factual questioning, this author resorts to name calling. Brexit was always going to be a financial disaster for the middle classes of Britain and unsurprisingly their standard of living has dropped since leaving the EU. Not in small part because the EU's worker friendly legislation was disposed of post brexit.

How can the almost 50% of people who voted against brexit all be 'elites'?

Anonymous said...

Yes MH but democracy is quite important in a major sort of way!
The EU is centralised control which suits the world elites in their mission to mould the world. Britain said no thanks.
Britian can be better off with Brexit in many ways and in the future Brexit could be seen to have been a lucky escape.

Ross said...

I do not think Brendan is on the left of politics, Mark.

Official UK Government data shows clearly the UK is doing much better out of the EU.
This website (yes, it is pro Brexit) regularly publishes economic data that shows the UK is doing better than the EU now it is on it's own.

Recent articles :

Mark Hanley said...

Anonymous.... If democracy is the driving force behind Brexit then why don't they run another referendum now the UK knows what brexit really means? Quite different from the BS pushed by Boris - remember the promises of a free trade agreement with America?

Ross... did you read the articles posted on the unashamedly pro brexit website before you posted the links? No of businesses post brexit not a measure of economic growth and pounds in UK citizens pockets. And publishing GDP figures without inflation and national debt data is quite useless (remember Liz Truss reception for her lower taxes and spend more budget?)

And it does not matter which side of politics you are on, calling people names instead of arguing the facts is a sign your argument is lost!

Ross said...

Yes I did read the articles and I acknowledged it was a pro Brexit site.
I also note you did not give any data to back up your point

"....the middle classes of Britain and unsurprisingly their standard of living has dropped since leaving the EU."

Phil said...


At two major points of deeper integration into the EU with the Treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon, The UK Government didn't seek a mandate from the British People, unlike other European countries. When there was finally a vote in 2016, it was to Leave. I see parallels with this NZ Government and Co-Governance. The NZ Government is showing a contempt for democracy, as did previous British Governments when they made an unmandated push towards integration into an evolving Federal Europe.

Mark H said...

Ross. The BOE assessment of brexit.

Phil. The big difference between entering the EU and co governance is that the whole UK benefited from the EU trade WITH their standard of living increasing hugely as a result. Co-governance is a policy designed to only benefit the maori king's family (and probably labour ministers who lose their jobs next year. It will be interesting to see how many ex labour mps get jobs with maori corporations).

However, the continued shift of legislative power to the EU parliament and the EU courts was a mistake. The better solution would have been to stay in Europe then use the growing concern about the European union's over reach amongst other European countries (greece, italy and france in particular) to shift local decision making (such as immigration policy) back to individual countries.