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Brexit Betrayal

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Nigel Farage is keen to promote a Brexit betrayal narrative. He claims people feel betrayed by parliament because they are obstructing the delivery of Brexit and denying the will of the people.

But the no deal Brexit he is now demanding is nothing like the Brexit he and other advocates for Leave tempted voters with in the run up to the 2016 referendum.

Before the referendum we were regaled with a rosy post-Brexit image of being like “Norway” and offered a Brexit menu stuffed full of the best “all benefits, no obligations” cake and eat it deals promoted by the Leave campaigns. They dismissed the Stronger In campaign which warned of the complexities and risks as fear mongering by the establishment elite wishing to protect their vested interests in the EU gravy train.

The Brexiters stopped Brexit

Theresa May tied herself in knots trying to square the circle of delivering Brexit and acting in the interests of the country, activities she knew to be incompatible. She pretended for too long it was possible, maybe in an attempt to keep the arch right wing of her party on-side, maybe because she thought that before push came to shove they would wake up to reality. Who knows what her motives were besides saving the Conservative party, but in my opinion she is certainly better off out of the mess.

Before she was pushed out May succeeded in producing a withdrawal agreement that would have delivered Brexit. As a Remainer I didn’t like it, there were no concessions to those who had wanted “soft EEA/Norway style Brexit” or Remain – possible together a majority in the 2016 referendum. But it was not the only the soft Brexiters or the Remainers that stopped her deal. If the hard Brexit, Eurosceptic ERG members and its supporters and her partners in the DUP had voted for the withdrawal agreement instead of against it, it would have (by the final of the three attempts) passed and the UK would have left the EU on 29th March 2019.

The Brexiters conspired to stop a March 29th Brexit! If long term Eurosceptic Roland Smith is correct, May (or anyone else) could never have succeeded because “any exit plan loses Leavers’ support the moment it is made flesh“.

The only plan left

Now three years after the referendum the Brexit Party and members of the (misnamed) European Research Group of Conservatives are telling us, as though it is an indisputable fact, that crashing out of the EU with no withdrawal agreement (meaning no transition period, uncertain status for citizens who have exercised their freedom of movement into or from the UK and no solution to the Irish border) and falling back onto basic World Trade Organisation trading terms is both the best exit solution and necessary to save our democracy. It’s not really a plan but they are getting desperate. It’s all they have left.

But that simply is not true, on either count, and many Eurosceptic advocates of leave are calling them out (examples here and here). There is and never has been a majority for “no deal” (if there had been, surely the government wouldn’t have spent nearly three years trying to negotiate a deal) and developments over recent weeks have shown that respect for democracy and the democratic institutions of the UK is very far from the minds of the prime movers of no deal Brexit.

Voters knew what they were voting for … and far too many remember

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told, either directly or through association with a “remain group” that people who voted Leave knew what they were voting for, as though I must by definition believe they didn’t. Rhetoric to promote an arrogant, elite “Remainer stereotype” has been as persistent as that to create and maintain a salt of the earth, down trodden, hard working left behind working class “Leaver stereotype”. Neither is correct and both have been perpetrated to further the cause of the extreme right wing capitalists in whose interests Brexit is being pursued.

I’ve listened to a lot of people who voted Leave and I agree, many, probably the majority, knew exactly what they were voting for. The problem for Farage and his cronies in the ERG and elsewhere is that far too many of them remember and have not been gaslighted into believing they voted for no-deal at any cost.

It’s not uncommon to hear people say they didn’t care one way or the other about the EU but they had believed we could do better outside (more money for NHS, increased job opportunities, better pay etc) so they voted leave. Now they aren’t so sure leaving will get them what they voted for. Some are extremely concerned it will result in the opposite. So yes, Nigel, it’s not surprising so many people feel betrayed. Betrayed by you and other Leave campaigners.

Is this really empowering the people and taking control?

Then again, I’ve heard people who now worry that Brexit was the wrong decision but who think they have to live with their mistake because changing their vote would be seen as giving in to the establishment telling them they’d got it wrong. They just want it all to stop and want politicians to sort it out. I bet a lot of these people feel betrayed too, by the people who forced them to choice without being honest about the choices.

Maybe Farage and Johnson can rely on those who think that once out of the EU we British will be able to do what we want, when we want, how we want and not have to do what others tell us to; the people who say they voted leave because they just wanted out, to take back control, regain sovereignty, make our own laws, reclaim empire, stand on our own two feet and once again rule the world free of the shackles of the Brussels dictatorship.

It has, of course, never been that simple and none of this cohort of Brexit supporters has ever given a clear tangible example of what they expect. Mostly they recite slogans about escaping from the inevitable EU army or an enforced Euro currency or freedom from the unelected bureaucrats forcing their laws on us.

Believe in Britain

The common theme I’ve noticed is that this group appears to believe that they will have more pride in themselves and their country once “we are out”; that reclaiming full sovereignty will improve democratic accountability and they will be able to vote out politicians who pass laws they don’t like. For this group, let’s call them the Believe in Britain (BiB) group, any economic damage is a price worth paying, but they are always keen to assure me that there will be no damage, the rest the world “trades on WTO“, “most countries aren’t in the EU” and I just “need more belief in our country?

But in this context, what represents the country I am supposed to have more faith in? Now we have the prospect of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister I am afraid to say my faith in the ability of the team steering the good ship Britannia is about to take a further nose dive (and a few months ago I didn’t think that was possible).

Patriotism? Really?

The last few days have seen the diplomatic incident resulting in the resignation of the UK ambassador to the US, forced out by a leak of reports of him “telling it like it is”, the rantings of Donald Trump and failure of Johnson to support him.

I might have got this wrong, but to me this incident makes it look as though the US is calling the shots and our most likely next PM acquiescing. If this is an indication of things to come, I don’t see how the BiBs will feel. Humiliation and submission is a long way from what they expect.

Nevertheless the Brexit party is ecstatic. Richard Tice is agitating for a true Brexiter to replace him. A sentiment he shares with Farage. Someone who will have a UK-US trade deal dear to their heart, someone Trump can work with. The implication is that this new person should desist from criticising Trump in his or her official despatches. In other words someone blind (willingly or otherwise) to what most people in the world can see (airports in 1775 anyone?) or willing to lie and to pander to a foreign power. He may as well be saying “appoint someone the US likes or else …”.

Is this the behaviour of a patriotic party with the interests of Britain at heart or a bunch of people who think their bread is better buttered in the US? Imagining the voice of Farage: “Patriotism? Really?”

Suspending parliament and Kowtowing to the the US president?

To emphasis his intent to deliver Brexit, Johnson the apparently anointed next Conservative Party leader and walk in Prime Minister, has consistently refused to rule out suspending parliament to prevent it from intervening to stop a no-deal Brexit crash out of EU on 31st October (or anytime). Some of his now defeated rivals appeared to less reluctant to resort to such a measure if it was the only way to do Brexit. Who wants democracy when it gets in the way of … erm … democracy, dictatorship is much easier.

Brexit was supposed to be about taking back control, reclaiming our sovereignty. Brexit was billed as returning the UK to its rightful position as a leading global nation, standing on its own two feet. It is doing the opposite.

Our courts, judges, civil servants and parliament – the cornerstones of our democratic institutions – have, over the last three years, been undermined by the media and high profile politicians for merely performing their duty of holding the executive to account. This is dangerous for any democracy.

And now by with the most likely next prime minister failing to stand up for a senior ambassador, the UK shows all the appearances of kowtowing to the president of the United States, a man who clearly fits the description ascribed to him by the now departed ambassador, to keep him sweet for a post Brexit trade deal. Glorious indeed.

Anyone cheering on these developments because they are intended to deliver Brexit is surrendering the sovereignty and democracy of the UK, not supporting it.

The economic arguments for Brexit died long ago (government assessment papers, technical papers, no-deal preparations etc), now the taking back control, for what it was worth, is also dying if not dead.

Betrayed, Lied to, patronised, manipulated and ignored

Well Nigel Farage can fool some of the people some of the time, but sooner or later he will be found out. OK, I get it, he doesn’t care whether he gets found out after he’s have achieved his aims, but disillusion is already growing, even in so called Brexit heartlands.

92% of Brexit voters may feel betrayed (as per the Brexit party leaflet) and Brexit does seem to have accelerated a disillusionment with politics and politicians. Too many people who visited our Make Votes Matter street stall last week told us they are disinclined to vote again. They had no confidence in the current system or the integrity of politicians.

In a heavy leave voting are we expected the reason to be failure to deliver Brexit but not one person gave that as their reason, it was they said, because they felt lied to, manipulated, patronised and now ignored.

“That man lied to us, he shouldn’t be anywhere near politics never mind Prime Minister” paraphrases the comments of many.

“While they are there [European Parliament] they [Brexit Party MEPs] represent us. They are supposed to be working to pass policies that benefit us. They are a disgraceful embarrassment” reflects the commonly expressed anger.

It’s not much of a stretch to say they feel betrayed.

I hope there are many more like them and that as patriots who want the best for their country they don’t give up on the democratic process.

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