Yesterday afternoon, we roared down the coast of Lake Garda, our two motorboats carving white furrows across a canvas of agate waters. A smorgasbord of beautiful Europeans: Austrian, British (including the soon-to-be-recolonised Southern Ireland), Polish, Italian and French, whooped and punched the air as we criss-crossed through each others’ wake, bouncing over foam and shards of sunlight. Soaring past a little wooden skiff occupied by three girls drinking Prosecco, we pulled the boat round, grabbed a Union Jack and held it high.
“Viva! Viva la Liberta!” And they raised their glasses to that – silhouetted by the Alps shimmering and hazy in the bright sky.
Britain has done something so cool that, I can tell you, we have aroused the jealous enthusiasm of the Continent from Brittany to the Bosphorous. Soon they, too, will follow us – agitating for reform or exit.
Yet, as I watched the news ticker in Verona railway station later that evening, I realised that something has failed to click in the minds of those who continue to grieve for this: the victory we have won abroad has not yet sunk in at home.
For four days during my stay in the North of Italy, the only information I gathered about the shitstorm brewing in Europe was from a copy of Corriere Della Sera which someone had left at a cafe table in Mantua. It showed the relative slump of markets following the Brexit referendum result. The FTSE 100 had slumped a few percent in London (ooh!). Well, Greece had fallen much further – and I’ll let you figure out what that means.
Now I’ve got the internet again – I find that the British press is obviously still in a state of shock and my Facebook friend count has fallen like the Pound.
Look – just calm down. If you wriggle, you’ll make my shares collapse. If you are reading this from Britain, give your newspapers a week or two before they re-calibrate themselves to read the signs coming in from abroad and begin a more balanced commentary of what is going on. To read the crap that’s coming out at the moment, you’d think we had voted to leave Europe rather than simply sack a bunch of useless bureaucrats who have made our neighbours’ lives miserable.
OK. Let’s do this.
The Council of Europe, The European Union, The European Council, The Council of The European Union, The European Court of Justice, The European Court of Human Rights, The Death Star, the European Free Trade Association, the European Economic Area, the Eurozone. I’ll stop there.
If you have a life, you probably don’t really know how these bodies function, relate to each other, are accountable to governments and voters and which of them we now stand to leave.
In other words, I’m guessing that nearly everyone who voted on both sides of the UK’s recent referendum did so on various forms of ignorant intuition. That’s fine.
The Referendum was an incredibly dangerous short-cut which was never intended to achieve what it has by the people who originally promoted it.
Dr. Charles Tannock is a Conservative MEP who I last met at his office in Brussels in late 2011. UKIP was just beginning to take off in the polls around then and I remember Dr. Tannock promoting the idea of an EU membership referendum.
“If the Remain side wins the referendum,” he told me, “then UKIP should dissolve itself as a party.”
I was not hugely enthusiastic about Dr. Tannock’s idea because I felt (and still do), that an orderly exit from the Union would require the weight of a Eurosceptic government in Westminster.
Today, I saw this on Dr. Tannock’s Twitter feed:
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 29, 2016
I would have respected a Remain vote – but apparently he does not respect a Leave vote. Making up the rules as you go along is about to become a whole lot less common once people like Dr. Tannock are back in the private sector.
Democracy has obviously malfunctioned. This has been an extremely annoying result not just for him – but for an entire 48% of people in the UK. What rational system of democracy would say that the majority should have a veto in deciding the direction of the country?
Luckily, not the British one.
Although there is no consolation prize for Remainers – there is still an equal (likely, greater), share in the spoils of the independence victory. Now that our governments shall have a free reign to legislate. Now that our courts shall be legitimate and not constantly overruled, we must all accept the authority of whichever government the voters (including the 48% of Remainers), foist upon us. That government will be all the more effective because of Brexit. The Independence lobby may be stuck in a good dream that they won’t wake up from for several weeks – but Remainers must not interpret this as their defeat. The country is now theirs to seize, too, and their voices have been given more political clout by the very people they saw as their opponents in the referendum. I’m waiting for them to stop licking their wounds, realise what has happened and dash to the helm. They have not been defeated politically. As they always reminded me, the EU was about service provision, not quarrelsome politics. Yeah. So stop behaving like this has been some kind of ideological loss.
This was not ‘the greatest vote of our generation’ as we were told, but it is the symptom of the greatest political collapse since the Cold War. The reaction of the bitterati who have mislead the Remain camp confirms what many of us always suspected about these people: they have contempt for the entire democratic process and the will of the very people who voted them into office.
The sense of exhilaration which everyone should now feel is that we’ll finally get to see the true colours of the EU.
Charles Tannock’s position does hang on public votes. Think about the ones who you don’t see and never hear of – the ones with the real power to legislate.
For decades, we have been part-ruled by foreign bureaucrats who operate in secret, have taken oaths of non-allegance to any national interest, and whose names you don’t know. That is not hyperbole, it is fact. Ignorance of the fact is excusable for most voters, but doubling down on an ego-investment founded sheerly in opposition to Independence is bigotry. Moreover, it is bigotry in the wrong cause.
To desire a foreign government to strong-arm your own nation into submission against its will, you must have contempt not only for the will of your electorate but also the successful processes of national governance that have defined centuries of success for the British Isles. It is becoming clearer this is exactly what lies at the heart not of the noisiest Remain elites (the emergence of people like Tony Blair from the woodwork to tell us all that we need to re-think the referendum only serves further to prove this point), it is not the future of Britain or of our neighbours.
This is 2016, not 1956. The age of creaking, pan-continental political syndicates is over.
Even if they do manage to somehow get through a second referendum or whatever, they’re not going to maintain the EU in its present form because the EU in its present form or anything which approximates it is completely unviable. That’s why it’s collapsing and will disappear entirely unless it becomes something completely different. That’s why you see the emergence of populism all over the continent. This is not a disease to be cured by managing the symptoms or ‘influencing from the inside.’ The UK has exerted more more influence on the EU within a few days of voting to leave than it did over decades of frustrated negotiations on the inside. Every passing hour, the UK distance causes more and more catastrophic and irreversible damage to the project which has brought Greece to its knees, brought a Coup d’etat in Italy, has left a quarter of the youth unemployed on the Iberian peninsular, aggravated (arguably kick-started), a civil war in the Ukraine, has destroyed communities with its irresponsible and utterly feckless immigration policies and, worst of all, systematically promoted its cadres through a power structure specifically designed to make them unaccountable in order to displace national representation.
It is nice that we voted out, but, in the long run, it may not make a vast difference to the speed at which the international framework crumbles. We have, at best, swung an axe at an already dead tree. We may have emboldened our neighbours, we may have sped things up a bit and we may be seen as the ‘first to have been right,’ but this is not a race with winners and losers. The point is that whichever country finishes last will still finish.
Remember that Britain is more powerful than the countries who are really getting it in the neck from Brussels. We can weather this storm better than they can – and it is right that we lead the fleet. We have taken a little risk and are gaining everyone more and more unequivocal clarity about the nature of the Union and the people who run it – so much the better for our neighbours. We will see the enemies of democracy in full sight and, whatever happens now, the EU will be forced to cut out the crap. No more oppression for Greece. No more laws which stifle enterprise and global trade, no more social-justice posturing and social engineering programmes. No more ignored referenda, no more overruling national courts. No more Euro. Television cameras in the Berlaymont. An accountable civil service. National leaders not bound to vote in secret and pressured into telling their foreign circuit one thing while their population another. Directives which will be scrutinised before national parliaments and sent back if they are not wanted. Treaties which can be repealed by national governments. In other words – the end of the EU as you know it. If you know it.
What must be so annoying to Remainers is that their own honourable, generous and temperate bid for Justice and freedom within the Union is failing – yet they were probably better informed and certainly better educated than those who voted for independence.
Surely, opinions which were formed in the darkness of the heads of Fleet-Street hacks and academic pundits trying to explain situations that even three years at the École Nationale d’Administration would leave you unequipped for are still better than opinions formed in the bottom of beer-mugs? Looks like they’re not.
Years ago, I studied in Hungary and there was a professor at the university who had spent most of his career teaching Marxist economics. He was a real boffin. I’m not sure what he was teaching when I got there – but change is seldom so radical that everyone who backed the wrong horse is automatically made irrelevant.
If you are a racist lager lout, the vote you cast in a geo-political context is not necessarily wrong – but it is only right by accident. It doesn’t mean you are going to get to the helm or that your interests are going to be represented by whatever you thought you were voting for.
Most of Remain are an honourable part of society who will take a leading rôle in building tomorrow’s Britain. They just happened to be wrong about the trajectory of the EU.
Don’t antagonise them. They are half the country and half the votes for our next governments. A shafting is a shafting – regardless of whether it comes from some kinkily appointed Jean-Claude in Brussels or a real, elected, politician at home.
Thank God it is the British, with their free markets and liberal traditions, who decided to head the fleet – not the Greeks or Le Pen. But, thinking back to the afternoon on the lake – I can’t help but remember the sight of Villa Feltrinelli – the beautiful building where Benito Mussolini used to spend his summers. The thought of Il Duce paddling in his knickerbockers made me brood darkly as the engines idled. We don’t wan’t this Acid trip to go bad by getting someone like Corbyn in charge.
The rise of popularism, perhaps even National Socialism, seems to loom almost as inevitably as the collapse of the Union. Again, whether or not the ballot reflects the desire for this kind of administration is beside the point. It’s a water flowing downhill thing.
In my next article, I shall explain what we can do to stop this from happening. The answer is found in a very unexpected place.