Brendan O’Neill

Don’t blame the Tories for a Brexit ‘no deal’ | 23 July 2018

Don't blame the Tories for a Brexit 'no deal' | 23 July 2018
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Remember when leftists and liberals were against capitalists throwing their weight around in the political sphere? ‘Just because you’re filthy rich doesn’t mean you should have more clout than the rest of us’, they might say. No longer. Now they love it when the boss class tut-tuts about democracy and wonders out loud if we should just ignore the little people and shape politics so that it suits us, the moneyed and powerful. Consider the glee with which some leftish Remainers have lapped up Amazon’s dire warnings about a no-deal Brexit.

According to the Times this morning, on Friday, at a meeting organised by Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb, the head of Amazon in the UK, Doug Gurr, said there could be ‘civil unrest’ within two weeks if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. This is a nasty intervention that smacks almost of a threat. In essence Gurr is saying that if Britain doesn’t accept whatever naff deal the EU offers us, and goes for no deal instead, violence will plague the land. ‘Accept the deal or people will get hurt’, is the sentiment behind this capitalist huffing over the direction of British politics.

Amazon’s warning of unrest if Brexit doesn’t go the way Amazon would like it to follows Airbus’s threat to slash jobs and leave the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Ford also said it might abandon Britain if there’s no deal (though it seems subsequently to have changed its mind). Every time a corporate boss has fretted over a no-deal Brexit, the supposed progressives who hate Brexit have cheered them on. They seem not to realise that they are implicitly giving the nod to that old, foul idea that wealthy people should enjoy more say over the destiny of the nation than the pesky plebs who caused all this trouble in the first place. Classic anti-democracy. Maybe bosses should have more votes than workers? A thousand more votes per boss, perhaps? That should ensure that politics remains business-friendly.

The panic over a no-deal Brexit is spreading. It stalks the business world. It keeps the Twitterati up at night. It has Tory Remainers tearing out whatever remains of their hair. Like those crazy survivalists in the US whose cupboards are stuffed with tins of beans and soup for the coming war with the government, Britain’s anti-Brexit middle classes are wondering out loud if they should stockpile medicine and water. They’re sharing memes in which Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the tale of a father and son struggling to survive on a post-catastrophe Earth, becomes a warning of what life will be like following a no-deal Brexit. They no doubt wake up in cold sweats, gripped by a nightmare vision of living in tent cities on Hampstead Heath with only one bottle of Prosecco between three or four families.

The government isn’t helping. It is being too vague in outlining what measures will need to be taken if we ‘crash out’ of the EU. And this is flattering the self-serving fears of the chattering classes. It allows their febrile imaginations to run riot.

But there is something even crazier than the way they talk about a no-deal Brexit as a political catastrophe that will reduce Britain to a Mad Max landscape — and that is the way they pin the blame for this prospect of a no-deal Brexit entirely on the Tories.

No-deal Brexit is almost exclusively talked about as the handiwork of a Tory government that doesn’t care. A government which puts ideology before stability, which thinks keeping Jacob Rees-Mogg sweet is more important than making sure Britain doesn’t descend into civil mayhem. This is a classic case, to use 21st-century parlance, of ‘victim-blaming’. Because if there’s a no-deal Brexit, it won’t be the Tories’ fault — it will be the EU’s.

The EU is not the innocent party of some Remainers’ fantasies, watching as our politicians try and fail to come up with a deal. Rather, it is the increasingly imperious player in these sham negotiations, publicly ridiculing every idea Theresa May comes up with and constantly pushing back against her proposed deals. Even May’s Chequers deal — which proposed a Brexit so soft it wouldn’t actually be Brexit — has proved too much for EU officials. Michel Barnier says it is impractical and possibly even illegal. There is literally no pleasing the Brussels oligarchy.

The problem is that the EU seems hell-bent on preventing Britain from genuinely leaving the EU and its democracy-curtailing institutions. It problematises any proposed deal that adheres, however vaguely, however softly, to the mass vote in 2016 for leaving the EU and taking back control. And if the only deal that will be acceptable to the EU is one which goes against this vote for greater democratic control and keeps Britain beholden to EU rules and laws, then ‘no deal’ becomes more likely, and more attractive. Indeed, ‘no deal’, thanks to the tyrannical intransigence of the EU, is now synonymous with democracy, with respecting the will of the British people.

We have a choice: no deal or no democracy. We either leave without a deal or we accept a deal that betrays what people voted for. The great question of our time is this: how much do we care about democracy? Do we care about it enough to leave the EU in such a way that there might be short-term economic pain and maybe even some national disarray? I do. Millions of others do too. I expect earlier generations who fought and died for democracy would also view this as a price worth paying for the maintenance of democratic principles. It is becoming inevitable: if Britain really cares about its democracy, about its voters, it will leave the EU with no deal.