A campaign of deceit is reaping its reward

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 12.07.2017

The best indicator that all is not well in Brexitland is the rhetoric of its inhabitants. After last year’s referendum, you might have expected the Brexit headbangers to lower the volume to a residual murmur of “the will of the people”. Instead, they are every bit as shrill as they were before the vote. And the more they insist that to challenge them is illegitimate, the more clear it becomes: they still don’t think they’ve won.

Take the reaction to Vince Cable’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show. The Liberal Democrat MP said he could “see a scenario” where Brexit “doesn’t happen”. If the economy tanks, then people might think again and demand a second vote. If Brexiters were secure in their victory this would have passed without comment. Instead, it provoked a furious response from their tabloid propaganda arm.

The obvious interpretation is that they think they will lose any second vote. In 2016, they were guilty of “dishonesty on an industrial scale”, according to a distinguished law professor. They told us that Turkey was joining, that Brexit wouldn’t mean losing out economically, that it would bring money for a cash-strapped NHS and trade deals around the world, that the EU would bend over backwards to accommodate us in talks. Today, it is painfully obvious that not a single word of this was true.

As Alastair Campbell puts it, the Brexiters have “stopped saying Brexit will be good for Britain”; they now say only “that it has to happen”. But there is nothing on the EU side preventing us from changing our minds. While we may be able to revoke unilaterally our Article 50 notification, this really doesn’t matter. Donald Tusk, Antonio Tajani, and Emmanuel Macron have all made clear that the door is open for us to stay, and with enough political goodwill a solution would be found.

The only significant barriers are domestic. Returning to the EU would be a humiliating climb-down for the Tory right, who have turned to ever more desperate arguments to ensure Brexit goes through.

The first is that the people have already been given a second vote in the general election, and they used it to endorse Brexit. This is patently false. There was a strong swing against the Tories and their “hard Brexit” in many Remain-voting areas. The high vote share for the Conservative and Labour parties has more to do with the constraints of first past the post than it does with their Brexit policy. Even if this were not true, the non-Brexit differences between parties are substantial and would prevent assertions of this kind.

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The second argument borrows from the movement’s intellectual predecessor, Enoch Powell: Brexit must happen because any attempt to overturn it would lead to revolt and revolution. As Conservative MP Owen Paterson said on the Sunday Politics, “if we do not deliver a proper Brexit… there will be absolutely appalling damage to the integrity of the whole establishment”.

What this fails to grasp is that the damage has already been done. The establishment – in the form of the tabloid press and a coterie of Conservative public schoolboys – has conned Britain into voting to make itself poorer. When it becomes clear that Brexit was based on lies, the public anger will be something to behold.

“Brexit is dying. Brexit is in terrible trouble”, observed former MP Matthew Parris yesterday. “And with every month that passes… the Remain side of the argument becomes stronger”. And we are not yet past the point of no return.

Edited by Quentin Peel

7 Responses to “A campaign of deceit is reaping its reward”

  • Personally I am convinced that a second referendum, without the blatant lies and dishonesty from the Brexiteers, would achieve a very different results. The Brexit camp have still not come up with any benefits attached to leaving, but the catastrophe that is Brexit is now crystal clear.

    • But will the “remain” campaign be capable of that?
      Time has revealed that almost the entirety of its last campaign to have comprised untruths.

  • “When it becomes clear that Brexit was based on lies, the public anger will be something to behold.”

    It was stark raving obvious before the referendum.

  • Another argument that has been forgotten is that over the last 20 years Britain believes it has been successful by hard work and creativity compared to the lazy dull Europeans. Completely forgetting the benefits that North Sea Oil added to the economy!

  • Is that the same Scottish oil (96%) that if Scotland were to claim it that would just make Scotland poorer? So that oil makes the UK rich but Scotland poor? How does that work then?

  • Hm. A generation that has been brought up for 30, 40, even + year or more by their schools, their churches, their cinemas, their telly, their newspapers that neighbourly relations can be resumed by “Colditz” are hardly likely to change their minds because of economics or any other such nugatory argument. Better to stick to hard facts like: who brought roaming charges down ?