I’ve had this poster up since May 2016, and on June 24th of last year, I decided to leave it up until the day that Article 50 was triggered.
Frankly, being completely honest, I never thought I’d have to take the poster down.
I thought that somewhere between the callous, disingenuous demagoguery of pre-referendum Leave campaign and the certifiable theatre of chaos and bull-headed nationalism that has since crescendoed exponentially to a deafening cacophony of stupidity, the façade of Brexit would slip, and its supporters would see the true terror behind the Red, White, and Blue exterior.
‘The people have spoken!’, people keep telling me, ‘this is democracy!’, ‘it would be undemocratic to challenge any part of Brexit!’ Really? 52% voted to leave back in June, that’s a majority, sure, but since then there has been no subsequent consultation of anyone; the people and parliament have either been denied a voice or actively abandoned their right to one.
The Government and the Brexit supporters have held onto this most tenuous and anaemic of mandates as justification for every subsequent action, all in the name of Brexit, and all of which have been hindered by perpetual secrecy and clandestine politics off-limits to us, the people. They behave as though the 51.9% was a unanimous decision by the British electorate to run head-long into the most destructive and disastrous scenario possible.
The Leave campaign’s misrepresentations and contortions started unravelling the day the referendum results were announced, but much like the scandal-laden President of our partners across the pond, the dogma has emerged unscathed. The fears and concerns of the working classes were, and continue to be, warped and abused; telling them to blame immigrants for their ills rather than greedy free marketeers, Tory ideologues, and other architects of their poverty, and that unhindered international cooperation is too steep a price to pay for social and economic security. It won’t be the rich who suffer after Brexit, it will be the bottom 80% – the people who were convinced incredibly to vote for their own destitution in the name of ‘patriotism’.
In victory, the Leave campaign and its disciples have broken out the Union Flags and the bulldogs in abundance and used them to paper over the cracks in their own arguments. The promises that were made, and the sheer falsehoods told to convince the working classes that the ultra-right and rich only have their best interests at heart have been thrown under the Brexit bus and we are now forced into this painful panoply of banal, moronic, flag-waggling ‘patriotism’ designed to make us feel okay about cutting off our face to spite our head.
Brexit itself is, in my opinion, and I believe the evidence confirms, a disaster in slow-motion, but it’s the catalyst for something that is equally terrible, something that gives me just as much concern. Something ugly has reared its head in the shadows of this demagogic-populist uprising. The Brexit referendum seems to have granted moral license to the very worst among our society to begin undoing all the progressive good works done over the last few decades. Incidence of hate crimes has increased since June ’16, bizarrely anti-semitism is on the rise, and support for minority rights is slipping. People who would once have been ashamed or unwilling to voice sexist, racist, and homophobic views have now become empowered by Brexit and found the guts to speak out loud and clear, as though the Brexit referendum was also a referendum on the equality, social cohesion, and human cooperation that is so often arrogantly and cheaply written off as ‘political correctness.’ To paraphrase Owen Jones’ article last night, ‘it’s like being told: “you’ve had your fun, you lefty liberal snowflakes, and now you’re going to pay for it.”‘
We have two years to strike a deal with the EU, an organisation who we routinely taunt and bemoan, and who have almost no interest in bowing to our benighted blight on its western flank, much less handing us a golden deal on a silver platter. There is no chance at all that the UK will get anywhere near as good a deal outside of the EU as it had inside. It utterly defies logic to assume that this will happen, but this is what May is peddling.
Trump will be impeached before the end of his first term; his cabinet will be dissolved, or the Republican party will grow a pair and mutiny against him; in less than four years, the USA will be able to undo and rollback the pigheaded demagogic exploitation of populism for the gain of the upper classes that we are seeing under Trump. Britain will have no such luxury. In two years, we yank the cable out and hope for the best.
Re-admission to the EU is a long, long, way off, and May’s comments today mirror her past recklessness in promising that Brexit is a one-way street. To me, it seems more like a runaway train thundering towards a chasm over which there is no bridge. Half the passengers want to get off but can’t, the other half are convinced that there might a bridge that people don’t want to admit is there; the conductor doesn’t know what she’s doing but is winging it and trying to placate the passengers on both sides, and the drivers hammer the throttle home with spittle-flying apocalyptic relish.
Maybe I’m wrong, and Brexit will be a success – a Red, White, and Blue success – which benefits the UK in some way currently unforeseeable by experts, academics, and people whose careers are dedicated to international politics and economics (who needs them, right?) but after all this time, even during my brief period before the referendum actively considering a Leave vote, I have yet to be convinced that there is some prosperous utopia waiting for us as soon as we leave the world’s largest borderless trading bloc.