The notion that we, in the United Kingdom, must pursue the process of leaving the European Union at all costs, regardless of the new information that seems to arrive on a daily basis across the press and the social media, continues to persuade me that there is nothing but insanity at the heart of our government. There is a definition of insanity that states that to pursue the same course of action over and over again while genuinely expecting different results is insane. I would like to suggest that pursuing a course of action that previously may have seemed sensible as more and more evidence comes to light showing that course of action to in truth be ill-advised if not deeply risky, then that also would count as a definition of insanity.
When the British Public voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU, I like many other "Remainers", was convinced that the government would take one look at the result, pronounce it to be too close to act upon, and citing the "advisory" nature of the vote decide to remain in the EU. Of course, David Cameron decided to absent himself from the problem he had created and resigned. This cleared the way for the Eurosceptics in government to bully the parliament into heading towards invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, and ignoring the reality that fifty-two percent of the British Electorate really did not have a solid grasp of what they were asking for. It also enabled the Conservative Party to install a leader who is trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, unable to square her personal political preference to remain in the EU with her pragmatic desire to retain her political career and not become a footnote in history. Her inability to simply turn the ship around and defy the referendum result, nor provide a plan that satisfies the almost bloodthirsty apetites of the Leaver wing of her own Party has left her weak and enfeebled politically and ripe to be replaced by a populist challenger who can ram the programme home and carry out the Brexit nightmare.
Along with this, in the intervening two years since the vote, there has been an increasing canon of solid, fact-based reasons to alter course and remain members of the EU. From problems with aviation to medical nuclear materials, to driving permits, to a hundred other things that various different people did warn us all about before the vote, but that were dismissed by the Brexiteers as "fearmongering" or worse still "the opinions of experts, but of course we've all had enough of experts". Now we are a scant seven months away from what even moderate commentators are starting to hint is essentially disaster.
Rational people need to start making a noise about this, because the rational thing to do is to change our minds. Sure, I do not need to change my mind, I was always pro Remain, but as a country we need to change our minds and accept the reality that we are condemning our society to penury and hearthache for a lie. There is no Brexit glory, there is no Brexit Premium, there is no shining future of British exceptionalism, there is only decades of struggle to end up possibly recapturing our current position in the World.
The people, in Westminster, that are insisting that we power on through regardless stand to gain a great deal, personally and in terms of the powerful people that will look favourably upon them, if we leave the EU. Britain can jettison all the well-meaning, left-leaning ideals of the EU that do things like protecting workers' rights and consumers' rights and so forth and make for a more efficient economy in which the rich get richer at an even greater rate than they do now, at the expense of what they perceive to be the "lower orders". I am not engaging in "Project Fear" when I say that the NeoLiberal vested interests that provide the financial power behind the public facing power that is government are looking for a more tightly controlled, socially illiberal, capitalist-friendly nation that will allow them to carry out their financial business without bearing the burden of EU taxation and scrutiny. These people need a less rigidly regulated financial market in the Northern Hemisphere, a place to fulfil the same role as Singapore and Hong Kong in the Southern Hemisphere, a place where money opens doors and calls to money, and no one from outside the immediate jusrisdiction is poking their nose into the ways in which the money flows around.
Of course, I am opening myself to accusations of being an alarmist, of assigning malice where there is only stupidity, of believing that the UK government is inherently corrupt without any hard proof, and I suppose I can concede these points. This is conjecture, this is indeed opinion, but if we can all agree that the people involved - Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg to name but a few - are not more stupid than they are self-serving and ideologically bound to goals and social norms that are supported by my theory, then it does all start to seem terrifyingly plausible.
Seriously, stop and think for a moment and try to come up with another reason why these people would be pursuing this course of action. The only other explanation could be political power, but now that public opinion is shifting against Brexit one might expect a sea-change from the politicians in line with the way that the public is now viewing our impending doom, if they were simply attempting to cling to local power.
There is no longer any doubt in my mind that we are being led into the fire so that the rich and amoral can forge our country into a new, more useful organ of their oligarchic concerns.
What is the solution? How can we fight against this tide? It does feel as though we are Knut-like commanding the waves to recede and slowly realising that even though we have been told that people have power, it turns out that we have none whatsoever. We march, we write, we rail, we argue on the internet and in person, we scream in rage at the papers and the television and Facebook and the online papers, but they have no need to pay us any mind.
There is no constitutional power other than a successful two-thirds majority in a vote of no confidence in the government that can change any of this now, and asking the Conservative Party members to turn on the government is a hiding to nothing. Not only would they lose all credibility from their own party, but there are too many Brexiteers who are either fools or pragmatists that will not give any ground, clinging as they are to the outward appearance at least that they believe in the ridiculous notion that somehow Britain will triumph by cleaving to her exceptionalism in this modern, globalised world.
If Brexit is half as bad for the economy as even the moderate press are predicting, then it will hurt me and my family. We'll be ok, I think, because we have savings and assets and a network and I have a career that will allow me to provide for them, even if I need to consider taking my skills to the UAE or back to Asia, should the company I work for at the moment find Brexit presents challenges to our success that for now we do not foresee.
That is all in the short term though. If Britain becomes a place where people starve to death because they cannot afford food, eventually that will affect people like us in the middle class. If unemployment soars as businesses flee from the UK and jobs that were supported by travel and trade are cut to preserve the core of other businesses, then taxes will fall. A capitalist economy needs people to spend money, it must flow upwards from even those that cannot afford to save, driving the machines of production and consumption, not that the ideologues who are steering the ship have the slightest grasp on this troublesome reality. Austerity will follow as the economy shrinks and Government can no longer afford to care for the sick, the disabled, the vulnerable, further pinching the economy into a state of stagnation and eventual shrinkage. Eventually only the rich will be cared for, and we will have taken the UK back to feudalism, in the pursuit of nothing. Do not misunderstand, I am more upset by the human tragedy that is preparing to unfold, I am just stating the case in bald terms. I am frankly sickened by the way that the working poor in the UK have been encouraged and manipulated into voting for a course of action that will hurt them most.
It may be quite clear that I fear this potential future, and I think that you should as well. This is what is coming if we career off the Brexit cliff without a deal in March next year - frankly it is coming if we leave the EU as it is the only rational explanation for doing this anyway. We will be told that these changes are necessary, that tough love is the only way to save our country and to reap the eventual benefits that even the most entrenched Brexiteers are now starting to admit may take generations for us to realise. The one percent will double down on their medical insurance and beef up their security and spend more and more time offshore, and the rest of us will be expected to fend for ourselves...
I will take no pleasure in having made this assertion, I am not going to crow "I told you so" when all of this comes to pass, but I am staking my claim to my status as Cassandra in this instance. If nothing changes, if the Conservatives drag us into Brexit (deal or no deal), this is what is going to happen. I (and many others) predicted that Blair would disappoint the Left, that he was LiNO(*) to the core, and none of you believed me. I was one of the first to point out that coalition would destroy the Liberal Democrats and no one wanted to hear it. I begged people in the US to vote for Hilary even though they might despise her, because I knew, deep down, that Trump would win unless American Progressives swallowed their pride and pushed him out of the running. We, the middle-class, metropolitan elite, the thinkers and readers need to understand that this is happening, and slowly we are going to have to look into the eyes of our friends and neighbours as the waves take them and wonder to ourselves how long it will be that we can keep our heads above water.
I don't know what we can or cannot do to stop what is coming, so there is no comfort in knowing what we face, but if any of you have any bright ideas, now is the time. If anyone reading this is a Leave voter who now has regrets, please stomp down on your own pride and shout from the rooftops that your voice is no longer being represented by the powers that are driving us towards the edge. Do not accept the bankrupt rhetoric that "the people have spoken", because the people are speaking now and saying that they want to put this whole idea back in the cereal box that it came in.
(*LiNO - Labour in Name Only)