George Smid: Brexit must not become the new religion

This story is over

One year ago today, 17.4 million voters (out of 46.5 million) won the referendum to leave the European Union. This month the UK started with the negotiations. The difference between June 2016 and 2017 is staggering.

On June 24, 2016 the Leavers were jubilant. The country bought their vision, and all the scare stories predicted by Remainers did not happen. The future was bright and rosy. Theresa May was to unite the nation.

In June 2017 the future is anything but bright and rosy.

The country is more divided than any time in post-war history. There is no plan for Brexit, no effective government to deliver, no consensus for compromise.

Brexit was not supposed to be like that. Leaving the EU was to solve all of our problems. Brexit was self-fulfilling and self-evident. The previous government formalised this view by pseudo-religious frenzy: Brexit is one and the only one, upon Brexit we trust. Amen.

The EU was also given the same God-like (or evil-like) treatment of unchangeable entity.

But the last 12 months showed how much EU changed: refugee crises, re-introduction of border controls (hardly mentioned in the British press), austerity backlash, Brexit, terrorist attacks, … Macron victory.

The EU of today is different from the EU of yesteryear. Only 18% of EU public would support their country leaving the EU now.

The Brexit vision also changed. Promises of a better life are out. We will not have £350 million per week for NHS. Immigration will not come down. We will not save any money by leaving and we will follow EU regulations, ECJ or not ECJ. (To be able to export.)

Two weeks ago, Michael Gove delivered the last in the long line of broken promises: post-Brexit food will not be cheaper.

Removing agricultural subsidies was to save us £400 per month. At least this last broken promise is welcome news for Lincolnshire farmers.

Despite the broken promises the discussion about the emerging facts was simply not allowed.

You don’t question God. “For there is only one Brexit, and only one mediator between Brexit and men, the Prime Minister Theresa May”. (Timothy 2:5, adapted).

The elections changed that. Brexit options are now discussed. People are aware of the benefits flowing from the EU. Nobody believes in ‘straight bananas’ EU regulations. Reduction in EU immigration did not lead to higher wages. Leaving the EU will not improve social care.

Research and science will not gain by Brexit, Brexit will not help schools. The red tape (EU or otherwise) is not the same bogey anymore, Grenfell Tower showed that regulations save lives.

The Chancellor accepted that British people ‘did not vote to become poorer, or less secure’.

The fact is that British people are poorer and less secure. The pound is down 30%, inflation up, living standards down.

We are living Brexit just now and it is not the milk and honey promised.

In reaction, we must now stop to treat Brexit as a religion. We must change our cognitive bias from emotional to rational. We must develop strategies.

Alas, instead of policies we just have umpteen Brexit adjectives: Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, People’s Brexit, Business Brexit, Prosseco Brexit, Sensible Brexit, Crash Brexit, Transitional Brexit, No Brexit.

Let’s pause about the last one. Until recently to mention staying in the EU after March 2019 was a taboo and anathema. Now it is one of the two most likely results of Brexit negotiations: either staying in or crashing out.

We will crash out if Parliament is not able to agree a deal which is likely to happen: Eurosceptic MPs want ‘hard Brexit’, the Chancellor wants ‘business Brexit’.

Indeed, any grouping of more than nine MPs within the Tory-DUP coalition can block anything.

With no deal the UK will crash out of the EU by default.

To balance ‘crashing out’ we need to promote ‘staying in’.

The voices of ‘no-Brexit’ are just about being heard.

Within the Conservative Party there is Conservative Group for Europe whose active representative Dr Nicholas George lives in Lincolnshire.

Labour has Labour Movement for Europe.

What we need is a cross-party platform, such as European Movement UK.

The real challenge is to persuade the public. When the public perception changes, the MPs will follow – witness the conversion of 450 MPs from Remain to Leave.

Public views do change. The vote in June 2016 was to leave the EU of 2016 for the rosy future as seen in 2016.

In March 2019, we will be looking at the EU of 2019 and considering the future of 2019.

We might be ready to stay in the EU of 2019.

To help on that journey please contact Lincolnshire European Movement.

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