Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Brexit motives

The Observer was just the latest organ to report the malign effects of Brexit. The trouble is that none of its readers need to be converted by its editorial and reporting. They are clearly convinced Remainers already. I would be more encouraged if the Mail or the Sun cast doubt on the decision to trigger Article 50 (it is too much to hope that the Express would). Besides, too many reports miss the point. I do not know of any Leave voters who actually believed that £350m lie on the side of the German bus built in Poland (as Lord Roberts memorably put it). Nor did too many of them doubt that there would be some adverse effect on our most successful businesses, including finance. To them, it was a small price to pay for the ability to have full control over our laws and our territorial waters, and for the ability to treat all migrants on an equal footing. As Tom Watson points out in the current issue of Private Eye, there was a strong class element, too. He quoted a contribution from John Bird (the Big Issue man) to the Lords debate on the Queen's Speech:

I was a bit unhappy on the day after we had our referendum. I was unhappy because when I walked into my little Cambridgeshire village and met an incredibly educated, sophisticated and well-placed member of the community, I found that he was absolutely outraged that “these people”—who were described as “scum”, “rubbish”, “below life”—had taken him and his wife and family and other people out of something which for him was the most precious thing on earth other than the United Kingdom. I then went down the pub that evening and met people who had voted to leave. Many of them were cock-a-hoop, aggressive and rather vicious. 

In other words, "Brexit can't hurt because life can't get much worse for us, but it is going to hurt you smug b******s who are making money out of Europe while we're not."

Times change. Those people who dismissed warnings from the Remain camp about loss of international confidence in sterling are faced with the fourth or fifth month running when inflation is above the government's target of 2%. Prices are rising even in the very competitive UK supermarkets. The organisers of the various Leave groups may not be feeling the pinch, but surely those ordinary voters they convinced to vote for them last June are.  These people must be wondering whether giving up pooled sovereignty in the EU is a principle worth defending in the face of continuously falling living standards.

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