The shame of Brexit

This morning I feel both guilt and shame. Shame for being British, guilt for not being able to get to London for what should be the biggest anti-Brexit march to date.

People's Vote and The Independent March for the Future

20 October 2018, 12pm (midday), Park Lane

Why are Remainers like me so angry and ashamed? Why don’t I accept that Remain lost and that Leave won and therefore the patriotic thing to do is to back our Prime Minister and get the best deal for Britain?

Do I love the EU more than my country? Nope.

Is the EU perfect? Of course not.

Are the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies good for agriculture or fisheries? Self-evidently not.

Are we not better off running our own country rather than being subject to the whims of a bunch of unelected, faceless officials in Brussels and a court in Luxembourg? Well now, if there were a grain of truth in that trope I might have some sympathy, but there isn’t1.

The European Union is about finding mutually beneficial solutions to common problems. It’s about finding consensus, showing respect, learning from each other. It’s about shared peace and prosperity in a continent tired of war. How easily our generation forgets the suffering and sacrifice of our ancestors.

Until June 2016 Britain had a powerful voice in Europe and the world. If we didn’t like a proposal we’d argue for it to be changed to one we liked or, if that didn’t work, argued for an opt out. There has never been a single piece of EU legislation that was imposed on Britain against its will. Ever. There may be individual things that you or I may dislike personally, that’s a different matter, but an actual law passed in Britain against the direct objection of the UK government – never.

But now we’ve lost our voice. We have no say in the EU and because of that, our position as a bridge to Europe has been demolished. So our position in the world is reduced. With the exception of the dysfunctional administration in the US, untroubled by reality as it is, no one thinks we’re doing the right thing.

Boris Johnson said at one time that we’re not sticking two fingers up at our friends in Europe. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re saying that Britain is better off cooperating less with our neighbours so that we can do more with people elsewhere. Ignoring the, what is it, 75 free trade deals and counting we currently have through the EU?

Like everyone on both sides of the argument, I have learned a lot in the last 2 years. I did not know the difference between a customs union and the single market, let alone the harmonised VAT area. I hadn’t appreciated that the basis of the Good Friday agreement was the elimination of the border which was only made possible by the UK and Ireland both being in the EU. I hadn’t really grasped the extent to which the SM and CU that have allowed supply chains to grow across Europe.

Both sides exaggerated during the campaign. George Osborne’s figure of each family being £4,200 worse off if we left was no more credible than Douglas Carswell, Boris Johnson and, my absolute Bête noir, Gisela Stuart2 parading in front of the £350 per week for the NHS lie.

But now there is less room for hyperbole. All of us now know a lot more than we did. There is more evidence before us of what Brexit actually means.

The red lines laid down by Theresa May – leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market – are incompatible with her third red line of no border in Ireland. We know that. The reason the talks have stalled is because there is no way to do all three. The EU has always known this. The rules are clear as we know too since we helped to write them.

I am shamed by my country’s wilful diminution of its position through the prejudice and ignorance of the likes of Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart, Jacob Rees-Mogg, darling of the far right Kate Hoey, climate change deniers Owen Paterson and Nigel Lawson – the whole sorry lot of them make me feel physically angry.

Shame on them, shame on Britain.

Let’s be patriotic: let’s have another vote and, I hope, rescind our Article 50 notice and start to repair the enormous damage already done to our country and the insult cast on our friends.