After five years, the biggest victims of Brexit are in full view. Integrity and decency in public life are crumbling. Because much of the case for Brexit is bogus, the political modus operandi of Brexiters, which now dominates our political culture, has become a refusal to accept responsibility for mistakes, excesses, deception and sometimes wrongdoing. outright lies to justify the unjustifiable. As soon as the electorate can no longer trust what they are told, democratic debate is refused. We have been deprived of a fundamental right of citizenship.
It is a form of coup d’etat, but with a cloud of nationalist hyperbole masking the threat to parliamentary democracy. To hold power, or to challenge it, in a democracy requires continuous argument and discussion, the precondition of which is a commitment to tell the truth and a shared acceptance of the facts, however different they may be interpreted. Destroy these preconditions and we inevitably slip into a universe of division and mistrust impermeable to rational argument. We are all belittled.
It is as the right of Brexit wants it. Brexit has given him a cause and a political coalition that allows him to control power more firmly than at any time since the height of Thatcherism. It’s not just right-wing partisan politics – from the impending assault on public service broadcasting to the criminal failure to provide additional education to make up for the educational losses induced by Covid – it’s the gerrymandering that promotes the interests of the Conservatives.
Suppression of voters; make the Election Commission even more toothless; ensure that all directors and presidents of public bodies are conservative; weakening of judicial control; abolish the law on fixed-term parliaments; eliminate all proportionality in the voting system for mayors; do not accept the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. And all written in language of provocative nationalism so that critics can be dismissed as non-British friends abroad and outriders for revival.
This whole edifice is the consequence of the fact that Brexit is indefensible in rational terms, so that even the bragging of success rests on a sleight of hand that turns into deception. Thus, last week, the unconvincing list proposed by Boris Johnson in favor of Brexit. It included: eight free ports (authorized within the EU and whose limited success is created by diverting economic activity from elsewhere rather than creating activity); a successful ‘impossible’ vaccination program in the EU (since June 1 the average seven-day vaccination rates in Germany, France and Italy have exceeded those in Great Britain); the control of our borders (the number of immigrants from the EU has decreased while the number of immigrants from outside the EU has increased so that overall immigration is hardly changed); investing in unlocked jobs (to the extent that the government made such an investment, it would never have been prevented by the EU); finally, the conclusion of the Australian trade agreement (under which Australian exports to Great Britain will increase six times more than UK exports to Australia). In truth, the gains are either non-existent or paltry.
The losses, on the other hand, are massive, real and not dealt with by the ministers. Our trade with the EU has fallen from a fifth in the first three months of 2021, a decline normally associated with an economic slump. Global private equity barons are surrounding our stricken companies in an orgy of asset stripping. We fell from the first to the fifth in the ranking of states having obtained European funding for scientific research. In total, services exports are now more than £ 100 billion lower than pre-Brexit trends suggested. Farmers lose 25% of their basic EU grant this year and tremble for their viability. The prospects for Irish reunification have never looked so likely. Britain’s relations with the EU are fraught with hostility and mistrust. A new concert of powers to rule the world – the United States, the EU, India, China, Russia and Japan – is being discussed in Washington, a list which clearly does not include “Britain. world ”.
It’s no wonder Johnson and the Conservatives want to see Brexit as a done deal and no return – “We sucked that lemon dry,” he told the Atlantic magazine. Recognizing these weaknesses would delegitimize the whole enterprise: thus, an additional deception is added to the original deception, sin upon sin. No government minister can recognize, for example, the astonishing asymmetry of the Australian trade deal and its disproportionate advantage to Australia or the concessions made on meat standards. Johnson and Brexit Minister Lord Frost describe the friction in trade between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain as a surprise, even though Johnson resigned because of Theresa May’s safety net designed to avoid it . Cover-ups do not wash.
There are signs the public is noticing. today Observer An Opinium poll shows that 43% now disapprove of the government’s handling of Brexit, up 4% since January; only 33% approve, down from 3%. Perhaps even more surprising, given the scarcity of public arguments for the EU, 27% would join (versus 22% who want more distance), while an additional 22% would be in favor of a stronger relationship.
Moreover, suspicions that the government is not being honest with the country extend beyond the dispute over the EU. Journalist Peter Oborne argues in his remarkable little book The assault on the truth that a culture of abuse of truth and avoidance of accountability is integral to Johnson and his government’s entire approach – from the referendum campaign to the management of Covid, aided and abetted by shockingly compliant media.
Yet Brexit is at the heart of this fight for truth and integrity: the lies that gave birth to it led to Johnson’s accession to the post of Prime Minister. It is this recognition that is propelling the rapid growth in membership of pro-European militant groups such as the European Movement and Grassroots for Europe. The citizens, desperate for a Labor Party that refuses to fight the central fact of British politics, are doing what they can to challenge the Brexit lie. They act to preserve integrity. After all, the big lies, be it communism or imperialism, eventually crumble. But such collapses require citizens to act.