If it actually mattered, the least someone could have done is assembled a positive campaign as to why and settled some of the British complaints.
EU officials and leaders seem to be wandering around with their heads in their hands, wishing that they had been given the opportunity to keep the UK on side. It’s not like less than six months ago they sent Cameron away from the negotiating table with some sundry scribbles on a post-it. Really they have very little to complain about except possibly their own stupidity.
In the event the most positive we got in a four-month campaign was a pack of lies from Leave, which they acknowledged within hours of winning the vote had been known to be a pack of lies all along. (But very positive and inspiring lies all the same.)
Both country and Union will have to muddle through. The destruction of UK soft power on the continent is unfortunate. The wrecking ball through EU status (losing the second largest economy, largest military spender, provider of warships to patrol Schengen borders, owner of four submarines of nuclear warheads and holder of a seat on the UN Security Council) is perhaps more unfortunate.
Boris and Gove, now they have their result, seem curiously disinterested in actually doing anything with it. One can understand Cameron’s hesitancy to invoke Article 50 (but he should have done so anyway). Why Boris now doesn’t want out is less clear. The longer he clings on, the more pressure there will be from backsliders for another referendum. If he loses that, it will destroy his prestige and Britain’s negotiating power. (Said power was never very much because the EU never believed the UK would actually walk. See above. Oops.)
Some questions have been raised as to whether if in the November election (one looks likely) Labour could win by offering to nul and void the referendum. Personally it would settle my resolve not to vote for them. It would stink. The referendum has been had. The Labour Europhiles have marginally lost. Maybe if Leave weren’t a bunch of liars they wouldn’t have done. The enhanced deal is dead anyway, so in that regard there’s not a lot of point. Move onto the next battle.
Both campaigns were based on fear, which presumably resulted in more people than just me eventually falling back on original prejudice. This was a pity. The European Union is a good project. There is nothing inherently harmful in the scheme. The problem is the steamroller attitude. Things like the Constitution which reappeared as the Lisbon Treaty so suddenly didn’t need any referendums. There’s the attitude of lending money to uneconomic countries in the Union for massive infrastructure projects which they may or may not have needed but certainly couldn’t pay for. It would be like London paying to upgrade the A1 around Newcastle and then expecting Newcastle to pay the money back out of council tax. It should have been done on grants. It is broadly accepted in the UK that the South-West, much of Wales, the remainder of Ireland and the Highlands have to be subsidised. The result would have been much better than imposing technocrats on countries that had spent years acting like they’d been given free money and much more honest for North-Western Europeans, who knew perfectly well that cash is never going to come back.
When dealing with countries with a tradition of democracy, an open approach as to what you want to do is acceptable. It is surprising that a body born out of North-Western Europe should have failed to grasp that voters can be trusted. It’s the vacuum of information that gets filled with nonsense about the Turks entering the EU that’s damaging, or that £350m per week somehow gets absorbed entirely by a few pen-pushers, and arguably more damaging than making Greece a holiday destination with decent infrastructure. (Instead the EU has left Southern Greece with no railways except the Olympia branch. Much success there.)
Thus blame for Brexit rests on various shoulders – Cameron for not seeing the danger early enough, Nick Clegg for not winning enough seats to force the coalition that would have killed this referendum, Jeremy Corbyn for being too irrelevant for words and the Marketing Department of the European Union for being implausibly terrible at their job.
We will now get a new Tory leader (and Prime Minister) a trifle earlier than booked (as no Tory leadership frontrunner has won since Anthony Eden I would not bet on Boris). After that the Tories will likely go to Parliament for an early election. Labour therefore has until Monday to decide if Corbyn will lead them through such an election. The Tories have got a month less than Labour had last year and will predicate the election on their timescales not Labour’s. Alternatively Corbyn can attempt to use Parliament’s power over elections to veto one in November, which will give the next Tory leader immediate and total legitimacy (given that Corbyn will have essentially voted for them) until 2020.
This post should be read in a regretful tone. There is no point in anger. There is no point in being angry at a dead ideal. Hopping around shouting at old people for being hideous racists merely breeds the sort of resentment (on both sides) that Leave people were busy stoking. In any event it is quite possibly untrue. Some old people voted to Remain (or not at all) and some of them already wanted to leave the EU for perfectly sensible reasons. Cameron’s domestic political career is dead after a similar length of premiership to Major. The United Kingdom is now out of the European Union (to all intents and purposes, if not yet practically) and we are off into waters which are not exactly uncharted. People like to say they’re uncharted. They don’t want you comparing this to the last two times we came out of European supernational bodies:
- 410, end of the Roman Empire’s presence in Britain. It appears that this was followed by a recession and the collapse of urban living. Unfortunately all that survives in the way of written records for the next 150-odd years is a book by a monk called Gildas who should have watched his blood pressure and didn’t know when he was writing relative to the end of the Empire. Passing comment is therefore rather tricky.
- 1534, when Henry VIII formally dissolved our link with the Catholic Church in Rome and declared himself head of the Catholic Church in London. This took some straightening out over the ensuing years. The precise implications of this division are still being worked on, though peace is expected at some point.
So nothing to worry about.
Here is a picture of Bastad in Sweden, seen from a Oresundtog (Oresund-crossing train) climbing out of Bastad on its way from Gothenburg to Copenhagen. This is now an ex-view. Not because UK nationals are banned from visiting Sweden, but because since my passing through the area last year the Swedish have diverted the railway into the twin-bore Hallandsas Tunnel past Bastad. Fast trains can now work along this (previously rather rural single-line) section of the Malmo – Gothenburg mainline a trifle more quickly.