Now cast in the sharp relief of a certain “braggadocios” neophyte’s vertiginous rise to the Oval Office and an awkward Italian referendum, it seems Britain’s populist protest vote was something of a bellwether. One may have imagined that Remainers would by now then broadly recognise that there was nothing extraordinarily “insular or idiosyncratic” about victory for Leave, as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently reflected. Not a bit of it. Such events appear only to have stoked the flames of vociferous dissent among related malcontents, some of whom will clearly stop at nothing in their quest for revanchist redress.
Irrespective of the proper determination of any law court, the political reality is that a clear mandate has been issued in the court of public opinion. Fortunately, excepting certain edgy insubordinates and ideologues, for once our politicians appear to be listening. That’s right folks, no amount of moaning about misinformation, nor any clumsy intervention by political has-beens, upstart mayors, or Scottish separatists, no flaky economic forecast, or convoluted legal battle, can ultimately arrest our extrication. Contrary to the hyperbole and anti-democratic machinationsof groups like Open Britain, we shall be quitting the failed European project (and not the continent).
On point of fact, the £350m figure displayed on the infamous Vote Leave ‘battle bus’ was – like the ebullient Etonian who toured in it – indeed a little exaggerated (inflated by around 35%). That said, most understand that the leave vote amounted to a desire to #TakeControl primarily of sovereignty and immigration. Furthermore, from the get-go Stronger IN consistently, hubristically proclaimed that they had won the economic argument anyway.
‘Remainiacs’ have not only implicitly advocated for a tyranny of the minority by clinging to the less than convincing ‘post-truth’ narrative. They have also denigrated the opposition more directly, with invective couched in casual, condescending bigotry, and gone as far as decrying the clear, original electoral mandate for an in-out vote. In so doing, all this group has achieved is to out themselves as pseudo-progressive sore losers.
So what will a United Kingdom plunged into the deep mid-Atlantic look like? Will it be a ‘hard Brexit’, ‘soft Brexit’, or the sanguine Alex Salmond’s “dogs breakfast”? In essence, the answer is considerably more straightforward than many have been led to believe, albeit not as simple as immediately turning our backs on all EU-linked platforms. For example, although the £9m taxpayer-funded leaflet for Remain did indicate that a vote to leave could result in a loss of access to the single market, neither side firmly asserted that this would necessarily be the case.
What, then, can we make of the “red, white, and blue” “Brexit means Brexit” mantras? In functional terms, we must of course formally serve notice of our intention to leave and, like it or not, triggering Article 50 will require an act of parliament.
In domestic political terms, regarding any associated settlement, the will of the people must be observed. Effective restitution of political autonomy and parliamentary sovereignty should be secured: the reinstatement of UK legislation as supreme, plus the capacity to set our own borders and immigration policy. This negates the prospect of the UK remaining within the customs union or compliant with all ‘four freedoms’ of the single market.
Finally, in terms of international political economy, quite what relationship Britain will have with the EU beyond the above ‘red lines’ – and hence how hard or soft our Brexit landing is – will simply depend on what concessions we are able to win from the European Council. Nothing more, nothing less.
With net migration now at record highs and the number of newcomers only likely to climb in anticipation of the drawbridge being raised, concessions on free movement, borders, and immigration will simply not wash with “the great unwashed”; likewise, surrendering ground on hard-won sovereignty more broadly.
Brexit minister David Davis was right to signal that several options exist regarding the terms, and degree, of access to the single market; that is, provided fees are reasonable and associated regulation limited to EU trade. Also heartening is Brussels’ recognition that a phasal transitional arrangement would be preferable to “cliff edge” severance. So long as our deal-makers don’t blink and are steadfast in the defence of indicated deal-breakers, they will maintain the confidence and respect of Brexiters, the markets, and their European counterparts.
Traversing the choppy, uncharted waters of EU withdrawal will not be plain sailing for the ‘Three Brexiteers’ et al. but then few enter public office expecting a walk in the park – as Zac Goldsmith recently found out, in romping around Richmond. Those determined to do ‘little Britain’ down may have won that particular battle but they cannot win the war. If they don’t get on board and let ‘Project Fear’ steam on apace, then Blighty will soon falter and they’ll have egg upon their face.
Julian Glassford is a UK-based social, political, and economic commentator. Visit his website here.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty