Has cavalier Brexit lunacy irrevocably damaged the UK polity? Hot on the heels of the banking crash that sparked the recession and austerity, the wretched failure of leadership from the Government and Opposition has compounded public distrust of elites.
At any other time, mounting evidence of this scale of economic damage would have left Prime Ministers cringing, fearful of a vote of no confidence, and a government in jeopardy. Does the fatuous vacuity of ‘post truth’ politics pseudo-legitimise ‘fake news’ and lend it undeserved credibility in the eyes of the credulous. Or is it more ominous: a menacing mask to deter critical thought and hard-thinking about the location of the UK’s moral compass and responsibilities?
MPs’ dereliction of duty to protect the national interest is plain to see. Why any would think that the public would trust them in future beggars belief, when they have cravenly bowed before a handful of woeful has-beens and those possibly profiting from the wreckage foisted on the country. Bombastic disingenous claims as to trading opportunities, and capitalising on the promise of artificial intelligence and the smart internet of everything belie ignorance and feed an ill-informed but sometimes semi-plausible narrative that separates the inseparable: the UK, at all levels, is intertwined with its EU partners. Brits are EU citizens with rights and obligations. The passport cover colour symbolises belonging, not otherness and certainly not superiority.
Trust lost is not readily restored, either at EU level or domestically. How could anyone suppose that the public would see the destruction of the NHS and social care as anything other than unacceptable and unethical?
The great fat £350 million-for-the-NHS lie should shame every politician silent in the face of the partisan squandering of resources on the unnecessary Department for Exiting the EU (and all the departments feeding it in Whitehall and Brussels). This is just one of the more tangible insults the Government heaps on the public.
Where’s the courage to state the obvious : we stay because we are part of the EU and want to reform and build a better future within it with our partners?
Yet, it would seem many prefer to mince around, preening themselves in the Brexit mirror, occasionally reciting the more moronic sound-bites of the Brexit-infused media. How many succumb unthinkingly to that other post-truth lie - ‘the will of the people’? Does intellectual laziness impel them to chant that instead of educating themselves? Or have they taken leave of their senses as people elsewhere in the world suspect?
What is it that allows them to wallow in smug self-satisfaction condemning Tony Blair while watching and abetting the destruction of the UK? True, the EU is hurt by the UK’s stupendous stupidity in not saying right away that the referendum was and is advisory. But the damage to the UK is far greater economically, socially and politically both at home and abroad. Is that worth it for the sake of the vanity of Brexiteers whose dismal legacy to the next generations is likely to be a national disgrace?
If, as a result of their abject abdication of critical reflection and responsibility, all they suffer is a few sleepless nights, they are lucky.
Yet, there is hope. It would be fanciful to believe that a younger generation would not think to rejoin a European Union that it grew up with and that it never wanted to leave.
The great paradox of Brexit is that it has confirmed the validity of the postwar strategies of visionary politicians. The ‘fathers of European integration’ – Monnet, Spinelli, Adenauer,Schuman, de Gasperi – recognised the power of economics as a tool to surmount internecine strife. Intertwining core economic sectors for the sake of the common good to create sustainable peace and share resources was and remains an ideal whose intrinsic worth is taken for granted at our peril.
To make all that happen, pragmatic technocratic cooperation took precedence over the transitory fads of political ideologies. It created a new norm of states, private and public sectors interpenetrating each other. That is the gift of European integration. Cameron’s contemptuous rejection of ‘an ever closer union’ could not escape that reality any more than can those charged with extricating the UK from those webs that strengthen us and bind us to Europe. Pretending otherwise does us all a great disservice.
As long as avarice and/or cowardice are the new normal for the political class, MPs will pretend that being outside the EU could be worthwhile, at least for that wealthy tiny minority of people able to weather the avoidable deep recession they precipitate and foster.
As long as they genuflect to the god of the trite, scorn ‘experts’, and villify the experience of Tony Blair and John Major, they will allow the UK to crumble.
Why ignore the UK’s European legacy? The 1950s saw the UK boast about its allegedly superior economic cooperation free trade association (EFTA) while trying for a decade to accede to the European Economic Community. Within a year of the 1975 referendum on the revised terms of the UK’s membership of the European Community, the Government agreed to the European Parliament’s direct election by universal suffrage and brilliant British MEPs helped shaped it into a legislature with teeth.
Ironically it is Mrs Thatcher’s legacy to European integration in the 1980s – steps to boost trade and economic growth by creating the Single Market and defence cooperation – that MPs purport to value. Those are the most profoundly political and sustainable innovations of a decade that launched the Four Freedoms of movement (including EU citizenship), and saw EU enlargement from 12 to 15 and ever more states after the fall of the Berlin wall. Crucially, too, the 1990s saw the cross-party efforts of Britain in Europe to inform the public about the UK’s role in the EU and that of the EU in the UK. National interest took precedence over mean-spirited party posturing.
No amount of promises to inject funds into R&D as the UK slips out of EU programmes can compensate for the innovative zeal, breakthroughs, critical reflection, challenges and serendipity of working on common projects across borders together.
Robbing successive generations of the joys, frustrations, fun, opportunity and obligation to contribute to building and shaping the European Union in line with challenges facing all those states in it working together, solving disagreements and conflicts together, is not only distasteful and irresponsible but a relinquishment of our moral duty to the world. The UK is a tiny state with limited ability to influence events and create better futures. To ditch the EU for the false god of Brexit would confirm it as not merely barmy but stark raving bonkers.