By arguing that the British people “didn’t vote for recession” as part of their advocacy for soft Brexit, Remainers inadvertently reveal that there is nothing intrinsically economically damaging about leaving the EU’s political union. Whoops.
With the post-EU referendum debate having moved on from the establishment’s sheer incomprehension of the result to an arbitrary and rather redundant battle over whether the British people voted for “hard” or “soft” Brexit (answer: read the bloody ballot paper), a curious chink in Remainer logic has been exposed.
Here is politics.co.uk’s Adam Bienkov, writing about the challenges facing Theresa May:
The first point to understand is that this is almost certainly the high water mark for her government. With Brexit negotiations not yet even underway, May is able to dismiss all questions about what exit from the EU will actually look like as being unpatriotic attempts to ignore the will of the British people.
As she told Corbyn repeatedly today: “Unlike the right honourable gentleman we think that we should deliver on what the people want.”
But while this approach may chime with the kind of attacks on ‘Remoaners’ we saw on the front page of today’s Daily Mail, it is a trick that can only be deployed for a limited amount of time. Yes the British people did vote to leave the EU, but they certainly did not vote to plunge the UK into a period of recession and international decline. And as the continuing collapse of sterling has shown this week, the sharks are already circling the UK economy. And pretty soon the prime minister is going to have to find a serviceable life raft.
My emphasis in bold.
Slavishly europhile politicians like Labour MP David Lammy are also now taking up the same “nobody voted for recession” refrain:
Funny. It’s almost as though Bienkov and Lammy are suggesting that leaving the EU needn’t necessarily mean “plung[ing] the UK into a period of recession and international decline”, and that Britain’s economic and diplomatic health is actually contingent on the kind of choices that Britain makes once we are free of the supranational political union.
Claiming that a mismanaged, uncontrolled or “hard” Brexit might cause serious economic harm is a perfectly respectable position. More than that, it is basic common sense. But that isn’t the argument that Remainers were making during the EU referendum campaign. No, they were claiming that any form of Brexit would be disastrous, that Britain leaving the European Union would be economically calamitous in and of itself, regardless of how Brexit unfolded or the model of our future trading relationship with the EU.
Here’s Adam Bienkov back in June, failing to draw that very distinction and blithely claiming that Brexit would automatically be damaging, no matter its ultimate shape or form:
Remain’s strongest arguments in this campaign are its warnings that Brexit would cause an economic shock that could cost jobs, increase prices and even push the UK into recession. These are warnings which have been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of economists, politicians, trade unions and international organisations.
One could chalk all of this up to normal political posturing were it not for the fact that Remainers are currently engaged in an insidious exercise to place themselves on the side of truth and reason while casting Brexiteers as bigoted and stupid enemies of truth and deniers of what should be indisputable facts.
Immediately prior to the EU referendum, Adam Bienkov fretted about “the growing disdain in the UK for the very concept of facts themselves”, as though voting for Brexit was somehow an irrational act of self harm:
But with the British public apparently so resistant to facts and the people whose job it is to deal in those facts so mistrusted, there does not seem to be overwhelming cause for optimism.
Even if Remain do somehow scrape a narrow win on Thursday, there should be little cause for joy on the left. Whatever the result next week, this referendum campaign should strike real terror into the hearts of all those on the progressive side of British politics.
If the UK does indeed vote for Brexit then it will open the door to a dark new political era. And it will do so at the same time as the left’s favourite weapons of facts, evidence and reason are less powerful than they have ever been before.
But of course this is a comforting leftist, pro-European lie. The British people did not suddenly become immune to facts. They simply cared about other, more important facts than the ones obsessed over by the Remain campaign – facts, hopes and fears which EU cheerleaders like Bienkov refused to even acknowledge.
Sudden geopolitical change inherently involves economic risk, and so Remainers gravitated toward the economic risk argument like flies to you-know-what, thinking that they could browbeat the public into voting Remain without ever having to do the thankless task of trying to make a positive case for the hated European Union. But it wasn’t enough, because even if Remainers were 100% right about the short to medium term economic risks of Brexit (and they certainly weren’t), the British people cared about other, more important facts.
The public cared about the continued self-governance of our nation and the self-determination of the British people. Even the lowest of low information voters could glance at the history of the EU, all of those furiously denied ratchets towards greater political integration, and see that much more was going on than the “friendship ‘n cooperation” tripe served by the Remain campaign.
The British people didn’t see why their country should remain part of an integrationist, 20th century euro-federalist experiment when every other advanced country in the world outside Europe manages just fine without a continental parliament, supreme court and unaccountable government. They didn’t see how a European Union made up of 28 countries could possibly fight Britain’s corner better than an elected government of the British people, by the British people and for the British people. And they were quite right to question all of these things.
But the leftists and the pro-Europeans had nothing to say to the British people about their legitimate concerns. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Tumbleweeds. They slobbered to stay in the European Union like rabid dogs, but they never gave a good reason why. Instead, they shouted louder and louder about the economic risk, wheeling out one politically compromised “expert” after another to warn us of the impending apocalypse, while pretending that arguments about democracy, sovereignty and national identity were silly, or somehow fringe concerns.
And having been so wrong about the facts which the people considered to be most important, now it also turns out that the key Remainer “fact” – that Brexit would inherently harm the economy, no matter its form – was a steaming pile of nonsense.
Adam Bienkov is free to go on making the argument that a “soft Brexit” in which the current single market access is maintained would be by far the best way to approach our secession from the EU. As it happens, this blog agrees with him – considering that Britain must rebuild atrophied political and diplomatic trade competencies from almost zero, and that the default secession period set out in Article 50 is nowhere near long enough to negotiate a comprehensive replacement, risking additional short term economic obstacles by forgoing the single market without a new framework in place seems ludicrous.
But in making a distinction between hard and soft Brexit, Bienkov is also effectively admitting that Brexit needn’t be economically harmful at all, if done the right way. And if that is now his position, as an advocate of soft Brexit, then he should do the decent thing and apologise to his readers for the thousands of words of pre-referendum doomsaying and post-referendum hysteria to fly from his keyboard.
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