Britain’s rush to leave the eu has been a shit show from the off. It has been like watching the world’s slowest car crash. Most of us are sick of it. It looks like coming to a close sooner rather than later. Those that led the ‘Brexit’ movement are the dogs that caught the car. Their success has been so thorough that they are now in charge of the British government.
Populists function best when they can shout their ideas without ever having to put them into action. It’s ironic that rampant income inequality has led to the rise in populism, and the populists that are harnessing this justified public anger have themselves benefitted hugely from the income inequality that led to the desire for populism in the first place.
Emotion plays a huge role in how people vote. That goes some way to explaining how so many people seem joyous about voting against their self-interest. Against even the interests of their children. One particular interview on Sky News stands out for me. A man was being interviewed at one of the ports. He runs a flower import business. He spoke about how customs checks post Brexit would likely close his business as flowers don’t fare well with long delays. They wilt. He spoke of his fear of losing his home and livelihood. He then proudly declared that he had voted leave.
Clearly logic didn’t lead this man or countless others to vote the way they did. I think it’s safe to assume that logic won’t lead to a change of heart now. The delusion is strong and much like Trump’s army in America, it’s impossible to tell how bad people’s personal situations will have to get before they will realise what they have done. The populist leaders benefitting from this situation do not want them to ever realise.
The tricks that got Brexit started and got Boris and the Brexiteers to power are running out of road. They are running into reality. Unlike many of their followers, they know that Brexit will be a disaster. They know that many of the people that they count on for support will be hurt. They don’t care. They just want to hold onto power and keep benefitting.
Boris et al are smart enough to know that the only way they can avoid the blame is to find someone else to blame. It’s the European Union’s fault that they won’t let Britain retain every benefit of membership without being members. It’s Ireland’s fault that the Good Friday Agreement is incompatible with Britain leaving the E.U. without a backstop pending a future relationship that avoids a hard border.
They are also smart enough to goad us into playing the villain. Most of us were brought up learning about the storied history of Anglo Irish relations. Most of us remember the troubles. It is exceedingly difficult not to get angry when we see a video of some Brexiteer standing at the border professing to know that there is no real problem and the Irish are being hysterical. It is equally difficult to watch the delusional commentary in Britain that is certain that the Irish public is about to rise up in support of Britain and against our own government who actually enjoy overwhelming support on the Brexit front.
We need to be smart enough to avoid making it easy for the Brexiteers to avoid paying the piper. The vast majority of ordinary British people who voted for Brexit did not do so to harm Ireland. Ireland was barely discussed during the campaign. Brexit is an entirely British delusion. We can’t protect them from the damage that will be caused but we should not demonise them. There are many in Britain who realise the emperor has no clothes.
There should be no question of Ireland bowing to the blatant bullying that is now under way. Our Government has held the line well and should continue to do so. We just need to be careful with our language. The British people are not our enemy. To mangle a phrase from Michelle Obama, when the Brexiteers go low, we go high.
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