At a Christmas party, my host rose to toast the coming year, 2019, and the Remain future... after a “people’s vote”. Nonplussed, glass raised, my mind raced. Should I join the toast, or should I “come out”? In my mind’s eye I saw myself, potentially as a hypocrite, so, I stuck up my hand and said, “I have something to confess... I’m a Lexiteer!” After an awkward pause the party commenced.
The party guests were a typical middle-aged bunch of decent, professional, lefty Londoners. The wine flowed and as the evening progressed several guests sidled up to me with friendly yet puzzled expressions to find out why I’d joined the Brexiteers. At the party – and henceforth whenever the chance arises – my opening gambit is along the lines of, “Well, haven’t you read the Lisbon Treaty, the EU rule book, said to be impossible to understand but designed to alter the way EU members govern themselves?”
And I’d ask, “Did you take note how it created an EU president AND a powerful foreign policy chief, yet regardless of the Treaty’s creation of those two powerful positions – that transferred power away from EU countries – the Treaty was signed off in Lisbon in 2009 by the (then) 26?” Memorably, our prime minister, Gordon Brown did not attend. He, allegedly, had a “diary clash”? The then shadow foreign secretary William Hague told BBC News 24: “If he believes this [Lisbon] treaty is the right thing for the country then he ought to have the guts to go to the actual signing ceremony.”
Voting Remain to becoming a Leaver was quite a journey. We hear Remain vs Brexit arguments are causing family rifts and married couples to divorce. However, in my case, mostly on Facebook, I’ve just been passing on what I’ve been learning while staying polite and avoiding angry exchanges. Closer to home, two of my five grown up children have kept me in check while the others humour me.
One told me, tongue in cheek of course, “wind your neck in, Mum”. The other shows interest but is mildly annoyed that, while I’m not exactly persona non grata, I am no longer totally on the right social bandwagon. I’m allowed to natter on by way of working out my thoughts, but soon enough my spawn will don sound cancelling headphones – the signal for me to shut up.
So, what have I learned so far on my journey to Leave? Take the Remain dogma that exaggerates its case by saying that the big red Boris bus claim was “a pack of lies”, and it was the (only) reason Leave won (with some help from the Russians)... Well, it’s true it seems that the Leavers “bent the truth” by quoting a gross figure, given the net figure is £170m after a rebate. But the principle of the message made sense: “Let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave. Let’s take back control.” I’m no fan of Boris, having seen through his Jack-the-lad nonsense, nevertheless the bus suggestion offers a reasonable option. There could be billions of pounds available to spend on our poor infrastructure – including the NHS.
What else have I learned? That Remainers say half of the “club fee” is returned to us. (But where does it end up?) That the landed aristocracy benefits massively from the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). For example: the likes of the dukes of Westminster, Northumberland and Marlborough, and Lord Rothschild, receive around £1m each per year. A colossal sum when multiplied across the years.
That Molly Scott Cato, a Green Party MEP upsets me, a Green, because her tweets infer that Lexiteers and Brexiteers are “hard-right fascists”. How very Stalinist of her! That Jeremy Corbyn is quiet because he knows that the EU TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will scupper Labour’s plan to renationalise the railways and public services – if we remain inside the EU!
That, as Labour MP Kate Hoey points out, in the EU the NHS must become “open to the markets” too.” That the Greens, paradoxically, after years of campaigning otherwise, appear now to support the “just-in-time” trucking of goods that precludes local production, and seem concerned that Leave may cause our GDP score to slip!
That many Remainers think the EU Commission is socialist, while conversely, Hoey writes: “How can we preserve our public services when the EU Services Directive helped force the privatisation of the Royal Mail and EU rules against state aid will make it almost impossible to renationalise the railways? TTIP is a gift to the multinational corporations. I certainly don’t trust it to be on the side of small businesses or trade unions.”
And for me? It is the bloc’s unfair punishment of the ordinary people of Greece, TTIP, and nothing effective in the CAP for organic farming that led me to agree that the EU is a neoliberal, pro global-capitalism project first and foremost. And as for the Remainers’ campaign for a “people’s vote”, as professor of economics Yanis Varoufakis points out, “it seems a direct insult to Leavers to imply their winning vote wasn’t made by the [right] ‘people’”. I have since joined Varoufakis’s Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DieM25) which appears to be a sustainable way of becoming truly European. Simply staying inside the EU won’t cut it.
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