On June 23rd 2016, the British Public voted for the UK to leave the EU. This was in spite of the fact that the official Leave campaign was unable to produce anything even remotely resembling a coherent post Brexit settlement plan. It was not as if experts and political commentators did not try and explain what the consequences of Brexit would be. We pointed out that a Leave vote would almost certainly result in economic chaos, and empower the far right to set about restructuring our political system. However, the result of the referendum seemed like a woeful attempt by the public to stick two fingers up to the status quo. As such, after a period of celebration following the Leave vote, the witch hunting against Remain Campaigners began. Within days, the right wing tabloids had set the narrative that anyone complaining about the result of the referendum was either a ‘cry baby’ or a ‘sore loser’, ironically contradicting the mantra of free speech which leave campaigners harped on and on about during the debate. This desire to shout down and silence discussion of the actual consequences of Brexit is extremely difficult to empathize with, but easy to understand. Many Brexiters do not want to think about the consequences of their actions because they would rather continue living in their post Brexit fantasy land, where the referendum result was a wonderful victory for good and against the establishment, with no questionable or negative consequences at all. By their logic, anyone who tries to pull them out of this fantasy land by asking inconvenient questions is a dangerous heretic, who needs to be silenced. This blog post will look at some of the actual consequences of Brexit and why refusal to address them is not only ignorant, but very dangerous.
One of the most commonly used objections to any sort of scrutiny towards the Brexit result is that it is anti-democratic to criticise referendum results that you disagree with. The irony here is that the referendum only came about because anti EU protesters spent 40 years questioning the overwhelming public support for European Integration, at the last referendum. Surely the whole point of democracy is to be able to criticise ideas that you disagree with. Going by Brexit logic, should we just ban any future elections and referendums? It is absolutely clear from this attitude, that many Brexiters are using furious outbursts of rage to shut down legitimate discourse, and that they are the ones with illiberal attitudes.
Any Brexit voters confused about what counts as democratic and non-democratic should consider looking to David Cameron’s cronyism following the result. In what might be the biggest misuse of the honours system since Harold Wilsons 1976 ‘Lavender List’, David Cameron gave 62 honours to his mates. Aside from showering knighthoods on his Tory cronies (Including Samantha Cameron’s stylist and stylist and Georg Osbornes image consultant), Cameron also appointed yet another Thirteen Tory’s into the unelected House of Lords. These include the massive Tory donors Jitesh Gadhia and Andrew Frasier, who can be added to the staggering number of millionaire Tory Party bankrollers to have been handed peerage by David Cameron. He wanted to stuff two more Tory donors in there to, but Michael Spencer was rejected by the Scrutiny Committee and Remain campaign bankroller Ian Taylor rejected the peerage because he didn’t like the negative publicity. Thanks to David Cameron’s six years of cronyism the House of Lords is now the second biggest legislative chamber in the world, second only to the Chinese parliament. It is by far the biggest unelected chamber, and as such is an affront to democracy. An awful lot of Brexit voters seem immune to the irony that their vote to quit the EU is going to hand even more power to this unelected £300 per day plus expenses, political cronies club.
Numerous political figures have complained against this brazenly anti-democratic move but it is unlikely anything will be done about it. Instead of attacking Cameron the Labour Party are too busy trying to get rid of their democratically elected leader. Similarly, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party pretend to oppose the anti-democratic House of Lords, but when offered peerages, they don’t turn them down. Furthermore, Cameron’s replacement as Prime Minister Theresa May, outright refused to intervene to stop David Cameron’s display of political cronyism. After all, she was appointed leader of the Conservatives without a hint of democracy. The 150,000 Conservative Party members should have been given a vote on their next leader, but the other candidate, Andrea Leadsom, was leaned on to withdraw from the contest so that May could be the next Prime Minister, without anyone else having a say. What this should show to Brexiters is that, while there were certainly anti-democratic elements in the Remain camp, this by no means excludes the referendum result from criticism.
Another line I keep hearing get repeated from Brexit voters is that Remain voters are anti-working class. Ignoring the very obvious fact that a lot of Remain voters came from a working class background, these attempts to crudely define Brexit as some kind of class war between the working class and the middle class is ridiculously divisive, especially as Brexit is an issue which split families, political parties, friendship groups etc. into bickering rival factions.
Most of this pro working class rhetoric comes from the rise of UKIP, who portray themselves as an alternative to the corrupt political establishment. This is despite the fact that UKIP is a Thatcherite political party, bankrolled by former Tory Party donors and stuffed full of disgraced Tory politicians. The purpose of UKIP is solely to soak up the discontent at the appalling consequences of right wing economic dogma and channel it into a political party that serves to drag the political spectrum even further to the right. One of the main reasons people fall for this, is that they are conditioned into believing right wing tropes by a mainstream media that constantly frames the political debate in terms of hard right economics and immigrant bashing being common sense, and anything to the left of that as ‘unrealistic’ or ‘fanatical’. The problem for Brexiters now, is that they no longer have the excuse of supporting UKIP to get the UK out of the EU. Those working class people that still support them need to admit to themselves that they are supporting a hard right political party, that endorse those same politics which got the country into a mess, in the first place.
If Brexit was really a victory for the working class against the establishment, then I urge someone to explain to me the economic effects of the referendum result. After the vote, the UK economy took a huge and widely predicted hit, forcing the Bank of England to revise their growth figures for 2017 down to 0.8%! Their response to this self-inflicted turmoil, was to announce yet more Quantative Easing for Private Banks. This includes £60 billion in the same kind of QE as before and another £100 billion created out of nothing with an unclear stipulation that banks will lend it, plus an extra £10 billion to buy lots of corporate bonds. The Bank of England are well aware that last time Quantative Easing was tried very little of it went to investing in beneficial stuff like industry or infrastructure and that their interventions will not prevent some 250,000 job losses. Even their own report admitted that QE for bankers is a failed strategy. The best conclusion we can draw from this is that the Bank of England have the intention of further enriching the wealthy, all the while showing complete disregard for the working class and using Brexit as an excuse. Amazing what a good lie can achieve isn’t it.
Conspiracy Theories and Character Assassination
When all arguments based on logic and facts have failed, what do you do? Resort to personal attacks and smears of course. One of the most extraordinary examples of this came the Brexiter response to the informative talk by the legal expert Michael Dougan, on the consequences of Brexit. Despite the fact that his talk contained a firm denial that his research is funded by the EU, in order to diffuse the bizarre conspiracies that he had already been subjected to, angry leave voters still turned up in their droves in the comments sections, to smear him with claims that his primary motivations for not believing the Vote Leave lies and wanting to remain in the EU, must be because he is a paid EU shill. Everyone has seen examples of angry Brexiter’s slinging abuse at people for daring to express their opinions. The obvious problem with dismissing peoples arguments with accusations of them being a ‘sore loser’ or a ‘cry baby’, is that it ignores facts, evidence and analysis, not even trying to establish that the main target of their abuse is often an individual, and not a group. It is easy for me to laugh off this kind of abuse. I practically make a hobby out of taking the mick out of right wing trolls. However, it is easy to see how blatant threats and insults could intimidate other people that are a bit more sensitive than me, into keeping quiet.
Something that is equally pathetic as a debating tactic is Conspiracy theories. During the referendum debate, Boris Johnson notoriously compared remain campaigners to Nazi scientists. Alongside Michael Gove’s appeals to anti-intellectualism, Johnsons comments has helped to foster a Brexiter mentality, whereby every expert is a paid disinformationist, hell bent on taking away their freedom of speech. Nigel Farage further fanned the flames by predicting that the vote was going to be rigged. A survey carried out shortly after he made these comments, found that 46% of the British public believed Farage’s conspiracy. It doesn’t matter that after the vote a lot of the widely predicted economic and political chaos came true, because like all good conspiracy theorists Brexiter’s had their own get out of jail free card, for every negative consequence. Indeed, the theory that any evidence of Brexit having negative consequences is further proof of a massive EU conspiracy, is just the kind of perfect solution to help ignorant people continue believing in their post Brexit fantasy land.
The Brexiter rage tactic to shut down legitimate political debate, is incredibly dangerous and misguided. These people hate the fact that other people do not think in the same way that they do. They hate the fact that Brexit has had some negative consequences, so they resort to insults, smears and conspiracy theories in order to discredit their opponents. They will use any tactic they can think of in order to dismiss opinions which silence or question their own.