The Euro Fifth Column
By Stuart Millson
With five months to go before our country disengages from the EU, a millionaire-funded, pro-Brussels movement is obstructing the democratic Brexit process.
With the ratification of the EU Withdrawal Act by Parliament earlier this year, Britain is now on course to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019 – a sea-change in modern political history brought about by the 17.4 million-strong Leave vote at the June 2016 referendum. And yet, despite Parliament originally devolving the decision on EU membership to the electorate, the Brexit process appears – to most everyday observers – a tedious stalemate: an endless to-and-fro exchange between the elected British Government, and the unelected leaders of the European Union on matters such as customs arrangements and the future of the Irish “soft” border; persistent calls from the defeated Remain side for a second referendum (variously) on the final Brexit deal or a complete re-run of June 2016; and the sympathetic parading on TV of the extraordinarily well-funded leaders of the anti-Brexit side.
Their Euro-banners flying at street demonstrations, and their spokespeople crowding the airwaves with the mantra that the people “didn’t know what they were voting for” or that post-Brexit Britain is heading for economic oblivion, the Remainers have emerged as a dedicated political “fifth-column” standing for the interests of the European superstate. And yet this group, despite its puffed-up prominence across the TV and social media, constitutes but a tiny minority of opinion: their many thousands of marchers a mere drop in the ocean when matched against the 17.4 million Britons who backed Brexit. The vocal and numerical strength of this cultish, EU-loving army exists only in the Remainiac headquarters of Britain: metropolitan London – our latte-drinking, left-leaning capital city, now so combustible, feverish and politically uncontrollable that it is impossible for the current President of the United States to set foot in it. A shocking reality – yet also an encouraging sign that the anti-Brexit, anti-Trump lobby is very much the desperate group, shouting in the street – and now strongly separated from the corridors of power, and the tide of history.
The huffing-and-puffing Remainiacs, though driven and energetic, have also been a little unreliable in their position. Following the referendum, they claimed that it was how we left the European Union that mattered (i.e. that procedurally, only Parliament could authorise the Government on invoking the Lisbon Treaty clause, through which a state exits the EU). Now that Parliament has provided both Article 50 authorisation and a ratification for Britain’s departure, Remain now seeks – lo and behold – a second referendum, claiming that we and not MPs and Lords need to vote again on the terms of the final outcome. The disingenuous title of the Remainers’ latest initiative – “the People’s Vote” (as if the people have so far been denied a say!) suggests a conscientious, principled defence of democracy. Its aim, however, to replay the 2016 referendum, and no doubt capitalise on the fact that many Leave and Remain voters alike might not approve of every point of the Government’s final negotiation, is a transparent attempt to halt Brexit.
The possibility that the Government and the EU may not even come to a final deal is also a factor in the plans of the Remainers – as a question to voters, such as “should we leave with or without a deal” might enable the pro-EU side – potentially – to call into question, stall, or even overturn the 2016 referendum entirely. However, as was seen at their march in London on Saturday 20thOctober, the issue is not really about the terms of our leaving: instead, it is a political civil war against Brexit in its entirety. The proliferation of banners – ‘Stop Brexit’ and even, ‘Tories against Brexit’ – spoke volumes about the real aim of this militant faction which clearly holds the 2016 referendum result in contempt, and believes it has the right to force its way, no matter what the great mass of people decided.
There were, of course, millions of Remain voters who had completely understandable and noble reasons for wanting Britain to stay part of the EU: many felt that we needed to stay for established trade and commercial reasons; some felt that the EU – like the UN – was at least a symbolic force for good international relations, and so forth. It was also by no means the case that everyone who voted to stay was a Euro-enthusiast: many Eurosceptics, echoing William Hague’s old slogan – In Europe, not run by Europe – felt it might be better to stay in the club and fight for British national interests and certain “red lines” or reforms. However, most of those who voted for continued European affiliation now clearly (or, perhaps, grudgingly) accept the Leave result and feel that the Government must be allowed simply to “get on with it”. After all – following the 1975 referendum on continued Common Market membership, there was no “second vote” on the exact terms by which we stayed.
The Remainiac, rear guard action against Brexit reveals much about this pro-Brussels group and the sort of people within it. Run by a millionaire clique that believes life is run on its terms, and which only has to sign a cheque or “move money” in order to get its own way, the pro-EU side exhibits a worrying sense of entitlement, self-righteousness and dogma. But its foot-soldiers, if indeed one can dignify this noisy metropolitan mass with the term, soldier, have shown us a curious streak of emotional obsession: a love for “Europe” that outweighs any loyalty to Britain – as if Britain on its own is somehow not good enough for them. Just after the 2016 referendum, another Remainiac march through Parliament Square saw one pitiful individual carrying a poster, the slogan of which read: ‘Can’t live without the European Union’. That the EU – with its grim, unelected leaders, its gravy-trains, fishing quotas, financial waste and bureaucratic waffle – should mean so much to anyone is beyond belief.
Thank goodness that the end is in sight.
Stuart Millson is QR’s Classical Music Editor