Sunday, 16 July 2017

How did we get stuck with Brexit?

Labour’s leadership has rejected Tony Blair’s claim that Brexit can be stopped.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said, "We have to respect the referendum result". And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed, adding "We do recognise the result of the referendum of a year ago."
It’s as if we’re beholden to a decision made over one year ago, even though it’s turning out to be a dopey decision that will cause Britain no end of damage.
And even though the latest opinion polls indicate that Britain is changing its mind about Brexit. A poll by Survation earlier this month indicated that a clear majority of voters would now opt to remain in the European Union if the referendum was held again.
And even though the electorate rejected Mrs May’s harsh Brexit plans in last month’s general election. She asked for an increased majority to push through her style of Brexit. Instead, voters answered by deleting her majority altogether.
But Labour’s current leadership says the Brexit decision has been made, so we must stick to it. You cannot reverse the democratic decision made last year, is Labour’s message.
Isn’t democracy about giving voters opportunities to change their minds? In a democracy, nothing is ever set in stone. Whatever democracy decides, democracy can also undo, if enough voters agree. That’s always how democracy has worked.
Does Labour say, “The Conservatives won the general election, so we have to stick with it, we have to accept it”?
No, Labour doesn’t agree with the Conservatives governing the country, so they will do everything to try and unseat the Tories.
So why is it any different with the referendum?
The mantra of ‘accepting the will of the people’ regarding last year’s EU referendum has now become a broken record, repeated parrot fashion by both Conservative and Labour leaders.
On this, both of Britain’s two main parties seem to be locked hand-in-hand with each other. Brexit has been decided, so we must stick with it, regardless, they say.
It seems so odd, since just over a year ago, the Conservative government and the Labour opposition were also in complete agreement with each other: Britain should remain in the EU, because Brexit would be damaging to our country’s best interests.
How did Brexit become so entrenched in British politics so quickly?
After all, Brexit used to sit on the far sidelines of politics. Indeed, the word 'Brexit' was only invented in 2012, and until a year or two ago, most people didn't even know what it meant. (Now it's in the Oxford English dictionary.)
Britain’s membership of the EU was not previously a majority interest subject. Some on the fringes of the Conservative and Labour Parties thought Britain should leave the EU, but they were small in number.
The vast majority of MPs and members of the House of Lords strongly supported Britain's membership of the EU, and most of them voted for Britain to remain in the European Union.
With the notable exception of the current Tory government, every single UK government and Prime Minister since we applied to join the European Community back in 1961 has supported our membership of the EEC/EU.
The vast majority of people in Britain also didn’t want Britain to leave the EU. We’d been members for around 40 years and it was not a big deal. There was not a groundswell of opinion for Britain to leave.
Nevertheless, Britain - to the shock of everyone - voted for Brexit in June 2016, and we are now on the road to leaving the EU.
Brexit is now on the news every single day, most often the lead news item. Parliament, politics, the news, the discussions at work, in the pub and in living rooms across the country, have become obsessed with Brexit and little else.
How did it happen?
It started when politicians, who should have known better, got scared of a little Eurosceptic party called UKIP. A party so fractured, small and splintered that their one and only MP didn’t even speak with their leader.
Senior politicians in both the Conservative and Labour Parties began to be fearful of UKIP. Instead of bucking the UKIP trend, they fell for it; they unwisely helped to promote and prolong it, along with the majority of British newspapers, also guilty of inciting UKIP's message of xenophobia.
‘David Cameron's historic pledge to hold an in/out referendum on UK membership of the EU if the Conservatives won the next election was interpreted by some as an attempt to halt the rise of UKIP, which senior Tories feared could prevent them from winning an overall majority in 2015.’
(Repeat: Previously hardly anyone in Britain was concerned about Britain’s EU membership – it was a minority issue on the sidelines of politics.)
In 2014 Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP told The Telegraph: “Parts of the country have been taken over by foreigners and mass immigration has left Britain as unrecognisable.”
It was complete nonsense of course. Britons didn’t have a serious problem with migration before the likes of Nigel Farage, UKIP's on-off-on-off leader, told them they did.
UKIP: Most popular in areas with least migration
Source: City AM
If you look at a map of where UKIP had the highest support, it was mostly in the areas of Britain where there was the least migration. And conversely, the areas with lots of migrants, UKIP mostly had the least support.
The foreign-born of Britain only represent about 12% of the population - that’s a normal proportion for most modern, thriving western democracies. 
Even among those 12% of foreign-born are many considered to be British, such as Boris Johnson, born in New York, and Joanna Lumley, born in India.
And citizens from the rest of the EU living in the UK represent only 5% of the population – that’s small and hardly ‘mass immigration.’

Tory MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, agreed. He said that British politicians "made a terrible mistake" in failing to take on the argument about immigration, the argument spread by UKIP.
He told The Sunday Times last autumn: 

We all, the Labour party and the Conservative Party alike ... made a terrible mistake, which was not to take on the argument about migration."
He added that UKIP exploited the failure of mainstream politicians to "put the counter-argument" that “migration enriches the country in every way.”
But even Mr Farage, who married a German and has a foreign name, probably doesn’t believe most of what he says. 

What he really means behind his Ukipish words are: “Scaring people and the other political parties about immigration has spectacularly worked for us.”
Gandhi got it right when he said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.”
It’s time to stop being fearful. Brexit came about because of unfounded fear. Now our leading politicians are too fearful to challenge Brexit; scared that they would be going against last year’s ‘will of the people’.
We need to let the politicians know, clearly, loudly and boldly, that Brexit is not our will.
Our political leaders should have the courage to state what they know in their hearts and heads to be true: it’s in our country’s best interests to STOP BREXIT.

Related articles by Jon Danzig

To follow my stories, please 'like' my Facebook page: Jon Danzig writes

Join my Facebook campaign to keep Britain in the European Union: Reasons2Remain

• Share and join the discussion about this article on Facebook: