UK Politics

Remainers? Leavers? We’re all liars

In the Great Brexit Debate, self-deception has became the norm

BY Walter Ellis | tweet Waltroon   /  15 September 2016

Before we make fools of others, we make fools of ourselves.

Does Tony Blair believe that he is a shameless money-grubber, who would, as was cruelly suggested the other day, dive head-first into a sack of s*** if he thought there was cash at the bottom? I doubt it very much. For a start, he would surely employ someone else to do the dirty work.

Does Keith Vaz see himself as a sexually squalid man who, not unlike the Bishop of Bath and Wells in Blackadder, would DO anything TO anything? Does he see any contradiction in assessing the issues of prostitution and “poppers” on behalf of the nation while recklessly indulging in both himself? I think not. His only regret – and it is surely a sincere and deeply-felt regret – is that he was found out.

Does Vladimir Putin accept that he is a ruthless aggressor with a Napoleon complex? Does Robert Mugabe wake up each afternoon thinking to himself, “what a ghastly old thing I’ve become”? Does Boris Johnson sometimes wonder if he should ease up on the personal ambition and maybe bone up on the detail?


But you get my drift. Deceit is integral to the propagation of “truth,” and self-deception is the starting point.

It doesn’t stop with individuals. More’s the pity. Elections are regularly won by parties and politicians whose current lies seem the most plausible. All it needs is that the deceivers-in-chief should tell us what we wanted to believe in the first place.

In the Great Brexit Debate, self-deception on both sides quickly became the norm. Leavers love to say they won the day with the overwhelming support of the British people. In fact, they secured 51.8 per cent of the vote on a 72 per cent turnout, meaning that only four out of ten of the electorate actively backed leaving the EU.

What Leavers (by which, of course, I mean those who comment on such matters in politics and the public prints) do NOT believe is that anti-immigrant sentiment played a significant role in the lead-up to the referendum. In this respect, they are far removed from the views of ordinary voters. They would have us believe that what motivated the people of Newcastle, Sunderland, Lincolnshire and Kent (to name but a few) was their patriotic determination to end the democratic deficit represented by the faceless bureaucrats of Brussels combined with their fervor for a restoration of the Common Law as passed down to us, in a Hampshire burr, by Lord Denning.

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

But Remainers are no better. Just about all of my friends and colleagues on the losing side of the referendum insist that we are doomed by Brexit,. Britain, they say, has entered the End Times. And they know where to point the finger. The fault, apparently, lies with the unwashed millions who relentlessly blame foreigners and Brussels andWestminster and bankers and Bono, but most of all foreigners, for the fact that their local pub has shut, they can’t retire at 50 and they have to wait 18 months for a hip-replacement. According to the Remainers, Nissan workers in the North East knew that Brexit would lead to the loss of 10,000 jobs and they didn’t care! They hate the UK as it is so much that they would rather it went up in flames, and them with it, than carry on as they are.

(As it happens, I have some sympathy with this view. I also believe that millions of Leavers voted as they did in the belief that they would lose and were only registering a protest. But then, I would, wouldn’t I? Which reminds me: has any serious poll been carried out that revisits voter intentions? And if not, why not?)

Upmarket Remainers are every bit as unreliable as low-life Leavers. Remainers are, you see, morally superior, we tell ourselves. We care about migrants, asylum-keepers, workers’ rights, the European Arrest Warrant and the pooling of sovereignty. They want England for the English, stop-and-search, the legalisation of chimney boys and the return of the death penalty.

Remainers know that if you just stop worrying about them and look the other way, immigrants eventually disappear, so that ten years from now, with any luck, they’ll be just like the rest of us, calling for a halt to immigration. By their lights, there’s no need for reception centres or “processing”. Just stamp their papers (if they have any) and hand them the keys to a flat in Walthamstow. The alternative is that Calais – our most convenient gateway to the Continent – ends up like an extension of the Sahel, and we can’t have that, can we?

Then again, if you listen to the Leavers, it’s France’s problem, not ours. The French are the ones who funneled all those bogus asylum-seekers our way in the first place. Face it, they’ve been farting in our general direction since William the Conqueror. They thought we were bound to put out the welcome mat and were shocked when we pulled up the drawbridge instead. Well, tant pis, mes amis. You’re too late. The water under the bridge isn’t called the English Channel for nothing. We’re not going to wear our hearts on your Sleeve.

Two truths, both lies. Consider these facts instead, which may very well be accurate:

• Nearly all East European migrants legally established in the UK up to the day Brexit become law will be allowed to remain – this in return for the EU permitting expats like me – all two million of us – to stay on in France, Spain, Portugal and (I read today) Berlin.

• Fewer East European immigrants in the future will mean more arrivals from the developing world, mainly from Africa and Asia, to add to the millions already here. Employers need talented, hard-working recruits.

Either way, the number of immigrants in the UK after Brexit will be greater than the number here already. That will be true even if the Government gets the net annual increase down to “tens of thousands,” which they won’t.

In the meantime, the other great true lies are (a) that we can get out of the EU with the merest stroke of the pen by simply abolishing the 1972 European Communities Act, after which we will sign brilliant trade deals with every country in the world other than those next to us, and (b) that all foreign manufacturers based in the UK, as well as all overseas banks, will bail out of Britain on January 1, 2020, leaving us with an economy not unakin to that of Armenia. Do you believe either of those propositions? I don’t.

The real truth – I kid you not – is that we have to stop and think and do the right things for the right reason. Which will take time. Which is why the Prime Minister is right to keep The Three Brexiteers in check. The way I see it, we have already shot ourselves in one of our feet by voting for Brexit and would be foolish to pull the trigger a second time. But you don’t have to agree with me on the virtues of Remain to accept the logic of sensible negotiation. Brexit should mean an orderly departure, not a Ryanair-like rush for the aircraft steps as soon as Article 50 is invoked.

Hang on, though. What’s that noise? Oh dear. It’s the sound of a former Prime Minister diving into a sack of s***. I wonder who it is.


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