Remainers' obsession with "voting to make ourselves poorer" misses what the Brexit vote was really about—and May's deal will make it worseby Timothy Bradshaw / November 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
“We didn’t vote to make ourselves poorer” has become a canard used by those Remainers who seek a so-called “People’s Vote,” or else such a close relationship with the EU post-Brexit as to make leaving barely leaving at all. In this logic, the people who voted for Leave did so because they were too stupid to understand what leaving might mean. This reading, however, not only glosses over the economic possibilities afforded by Brexit, but also misunderstands both Leave voters’ intelligence and the reality of the relationship between the UK and Europe.
To understand, it is best to go back to the time of the EU’s formation. UK membership of the EU was always known to be a gradual, ongoing and deceptive ceding of sovereignty to a Brussels administrative team, away from national Parliamentary democracy. This brave new world, wiping away the horizons of national history, governmental tradition and political values, was put in train to stop wars and peoples of Europe fighting each other.
Presumably it was not intended that a few large powerful nations would dominate and control the Brussels machine. But when the Euro was implemented—against much economic advice—Germany became dominant. The bleakness of the EU vision expanded as Greece was gutted and tortured for the sake of German banks, and resentment in Italy grew. Big corporate business loved the EU as a single market—instanced by the CBI, who strongly advocated for the UK to join the Euro. Membership also transferred national expertise, as well as motor manufacturing, to the EU—making the UK a client state for many basic needs, as we are now ironically hearing from Project Fear.
This state of affairs worked well for some. Bankers, financiers and the metropolitan elite, notably the BBC, bonded emotionally and intellectually with this EU administrative system as if to a religion. The liberated middle classes, in particular the educational professions, also were captivated. But others became angry as their history was diminished, their communities disrupted and their prospects put at a disadvantage.
The absolute scandal was the wanton destruction of the fishing industry by the CFP, devastating fishing grounds ecologically, ending cheap cod, and pushing British fishermen out of their historic waters. The government was compelled to pay for the decommissioning of high-quality British fishing boats. Other hits to sovereignty, legal rights and financial independence were similarly known about in advance—as a document known as FCO30/1048, locked away under the Official Secrets Act for over five decades and only recently revealed, makes clear.
This state of affairs will not be improved by May’s proposed Brexit deal, as we face the prospect of the little-noticed EU Joint Committee governing unelected if May’s plan is agreed. Her deal is a voluntary acceptance of foreign rule, inverting the Brexit vote completely. Far from ending the Brexit debate, her plan will create increasing anger as its hidden clauses take effect.
The liberated middle-class intelligentsia remainers, as Belgian historian David Van Reybrouck says, “have been quick to hear echoes of the proto-fascist movements of the inter-War years, but they have missed the better parallel from that era: anti-colonial resistance against the Belgian, Dutch, British, or French empires—which by that stage took their ‘civilizing mission’ earnestly.” Other historians, too, have described the EU as an empire. In light of this, Telegraph commentator Ambrose Evans Pritchard has explained how Eurosceptic populism has been badly misdiagnosed, pigeon-holed too glibly as anti-immigrant, or anti-capitalist, or as a displaced protest against hyper-globalisation.
This is something liberal commentators have repeatedly failed to understand. During the referendum campaign, dissenters were ipso facto xenophobes and ‘smelly’ fishermen—as highly-paid sports presenter Gary Lineker contemptuously referred to a member of the astonishingly betrayed fishing industry. Journalist Nick Cohen talked of “a know-nothing movement of loud mouths and closed minds,” while Vince Cable recently told the Lib Dem Spring conference that “too many” Brexit voters were driven by the “white” nostalgia of the elderly. The ‘Anywheres’ bought into the EU management vision while the ‘Somewheres’, in their communities, were alienated and smeared as thick, stupid and morally bad, uneducated, and reactionary.
Those who voted to leave the EU wanted to do so in order to cut free from a welter of hostile initiatives, all cutting against their cultural, historical and traditional sense of identity—not on economic grounds at all. Democracy was very important to them, as was transparency, and the right to disagree—over social ethics and education, for example. According to Politico polling in 2017, over 60 per cent of Leave voters say “significant damage” to the British economy is “a price worth paying for Britain being out of the European Union.” For them, it is freedom that matters, not the short-term economic details. May’s deal will give us nothing of the sort.