A Hard Brexit?

This is tied back, a bit, to yesterday’s post about the future of Europe, with or without Britain. Two things caught my eyes last week:

  • First a blog post on The Spectator web site by Ross Clark that noted that there is considerable evidence that British attitudes towards the Brexit are hardening. Mr Clark thinks that the Remainers have messed up because, no matTer what the EU has done, and it has been most keen on punishing Britain for daring to leave the union, they, the Remainers remain staunchly loyal to Brussels when most ordinary Britons are fed up and are turning, in increasing numbers towards a “just get on with it” position; and
  • Second, an item in the Mail on Sunday by Dan Hodges who says that he has, personally, gone from being a staunch Remainer to the point where he now says, in response to British MPs’ gyrations aimed at undermining Prime Minister May’s position, that “Many MPs think that, by blocking all other avenues, voters will opt to stay, rather than risk No Deal. But they are dangerously deluded. If forced to choose between No Brexit or No Deal, most people will opt for No Deal. And I know this because I’m one of them.” He’s turned 180°: from Remain to No Deal, Just OUT!  That’s backed up by an article in the Financial Times that says, discussing the views of two Dover men who were on opposite side of the referendum, that “like a growing proportion of the electorate, the two middle-aged friends see a no-deal Brexit less as jumping off the cliff to certain harm, more as a leap into the unknown.

The media, globally, is full of articles, like the ones Dan Hodges wrote, earlier, about the hazards of a No Deal Brexit, but I think that popular opinion is changing, despite all the dire warnings. I think that the EU has been seen, or, at least has been perceived to have negotiated in bad faith; it cannot bear the thought that anyone, and especially not the world’s 5th largest economy, would actually want to leave the ‘club.’ It wants to make the deal so bad that Britain will give up and no other country will ever attempt the same thing.

The problem is that the British referendum was a free and fair test of a sovereign people’s will and they want out: the question was clear and the result was in keeping with how most liberal democracies decide things ~ it was 50%+1 (actually 51.9%) of those who voted; that was 72% of the electorate, which is a respectable if not overwhelming turnout. The fact that the EU has followed a very tough negotiating line and that the Brits have been a bit (maybe a lot) pie in the sky in their positions is neither here nor there. If the EU is a democratic institution, as it claims to be, then it must be possible to leave the union, and even, fairly, to buy one’s way out.

I agree with Noel Malcolm, writing, also, in the Financial Times, who says, about the referendum, that “We do in fact have survey data about people’s reasons for voting Leave. The most important reason was democracy. They said they wanted to live under laws made by the people they elected. Immigration came second. Neither point was about austerity or globalisation. What they objected to was a supranational government making some of their laws and lifting all immigration controls on the inhabitants of 27 other countries. This kind of government is a uniquely European project, not a “global” development at all … [and, he adds] … Here we have the central issue which many Remainers, including the diehards in parliament, have generally avoided and perhaps never understood. If it is referred to at all, it is dismissed as a merely “ideological” concern. That is not an adequate response to the fundamental desire of millions of people to live in a normal self-governing democracy. And yet the incomprehension is quite widely shared internationally — by, for example, Americans who deprecate Brexit, even though they would never accept supranational government over their own country.” I think that, more than e.g. Nigel Farage’s populist rhetoric is why millions and millions of voted to leave, in the first place, and why millions are, now, prepared to follow the No Deal or Hard Brexit route rather than acquiesce to what many, many Britons perceive to be more EU bullying.

My sense, from reading, especially, British blog posts, is that the ground has shifted under both Theresa May and under the EU, too … Britain, now, as the deadline approaches, just wants out, and it is prepared to face the social, economic and political consequences, which could, potentially, cause a breakup of the United Kingdom itself ~ Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain (62% and 55.8%, respectively).

It needn’t have come that, it shouldn’t have come to that. Theresa May did not do a good job for Britain, but the EU team did a worse job for everyone.

I remain convinced that Britain belongs in Europe, but preferably only in a multi-tiered, or à la carte Europe, which is, I think, the exact reverse of what Jean-Claude Juncker and Emmanuel Marcon want to see. Absent the restructuring of the EU, which I firmly believe it needs to survive at all, the Hard Brexit may be the least bad option … at least Britain will be out when the EU collapses, as I fear it must.

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