Last week two letters in the Newton News told me – incorrectly – what I believe about Brexit, so I reckoned that maybe it was time to tell you myself.
A COLLECTIVE IRRATIONALITY
My view on Brexit is that Britain has been seized by a collective irrationality, where for more than three years large numbers of people have neglected what they should have been worrying about – business investment, schools, mental health, Bishop Auckland hospital etc. – in order to shout at each other about Brexit.
When Leave won the referendum, I genuinely hoped for a negotiated settlement (such as the Labour Party wanted), whereby we could leave the institution whilst keeping some sort of trading arrangement. Surely, with give and take, we could have agreed something that satisfied both sides? Not a bit of it, as any voices for compromise were drowned out by shouting and vitriol.
FIRST, I have been amazed at the viciousness on both sides – for three years Leavers and Remainers have just been yelling the same worthless slogans at each other.
The recent release of the Operation Yellowhammer papers has been typical. Here we have a report, commissioned by the government, about the dangers of a no deal Brexit. Are we analysing it and making suitable preparations? No!! Remainers are simply screaming “Apocalypse!” to which the Leavers’ response is merely “Operation Fear!”
Alistair PG Welsh has been aggressively bilious for three years! Indeed, one has to be impressed by the way he has managed week after week to write essentially the same angry letter to the Newton News in different ways. The rancour on social media has reached fever pitch, with people – otherwise kind neighbours and good parents – happily sharing lists of ‘traitors’ who need executing. In some ways the country seems to be in the grip of a mania equivalent to the ‘Red Scare’ of the 1950s.
SECONDLY, I have been appalled by the level of ignorance shown by people who nevertheless have not hesitated to vent their spleen in public. I had one chap playing hell with me thinking I was the MP – that was the level of his knowledge about politics. Social media is infested with memes, every line of which is either factually incorrect or logically inconsistent. It appears that knowing what you are talking about is unnecessary to form a violent sentiment either way about Brexit.
THE IRONY OF BREXIT
And when I hear ordinary working class men and women telling me that Boris Johnson is a ‘man of the people’ who of all the politicians out there most has their interests at heart, I realise that numbers of people have collectively abandoned all common sense in this matter.
The irony of Brexit is that – despite the expectation of ‘sovereignty’ – the everyday experience of government for most people will be changed not a jot by Brexit. The Council will still collect their bins. The same PCSO will come round to investigate anti-social behaviour. HMRC will still collect our taxes, the DWP will still organise our welfare benefits.
The EU is not the paradise of safety of the Remainers’ literature – it is a ruthless neoliberal organisation and Remainers seem to have forgotten that, before Brexit, we were all fighting to stop TTIP. Neither is Brexit the land of milk and honey in the Leavers’ dreams – I fear, given the people driving the issue, that it will merely be the start of a right-wing assault upon our freedoms and rights.
WHAT DO I BELIEVE ABOUT BREXIT?
HOWEVER, I am reaching the point where I wonder whether ANY conclusion – however awful – could possibly do more damage to the country than the Brexit process is doing to us at the moment. Brexit is already damaging the economy. As I wrote a fortnight ago, it is also undermining our parliamentary democracy. It has polarised society and set people at each other’s throats. And when I read that people are withdrawing funding from the RNLI because the Daily Mail says that it spends 2% of its budget on work overseas I seriously fear that the country which invented Live Aid has lost its moral compass.
I believe that the main problem facing Newton Aycliffe is not whether we leave or remain, but that County Durham is one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest regions in Western Europe.
And as for Brexit itself, the ‘guest’s choice’ song by Taylor Swift on this week’s edition of my political discussion show on Aycliffe Radio was spot on appropriate: ‘You need to calm down’.
John D. Clare