Look Back in Anger: How the Brexit Debate Was Framed All Wrong
The British people would never have fallen for Brexit, had the European values of today not been completely frozen out of the Brexit debate.
Nearly 3 years after the Brexit referendum in the UK, it feels as though the whole quagmire of Britain leaving the European Union is just beginning.
That’s against the backdrop of the fact the EU and the UK did eventually strike a last-minute Brexit deal, only to see it get killed by the British Parliament, and that nobody in London or Brussels really knows what would come on and especially after March 29, 2019,
Whether the UK goes through with a “deal” or “no deal” Brexit, a soft or hard Brexit, or possibly reverses Brexit, the Brexit ramifications will be around for generations.
Motions for a second Brexit referendum aside, for a while now the rest of the EU, the EU 27, seems to have made its peace with Britain calling it quits.
The Union’s image has certainly been hurt by Brexit but once London is truly out, many across the EU would give out a sigh of relief: the absence of the British veto harbors great promise for enhanced EU integration.
That would, of course, be “adequate” integration compliant with the genius principle of subsidiarity. It’s doubtful even the greatest proponents of “more Europe” would want the EU transformed into a hyperstate monster – that would run counter to its raison d’être.
No more “undefeated former empire” or Commonwealth exceptionalism stemming from London to clog EU integration, no more roads not taken because Britain’s an island.
Even the path towards a common EU army advocated by French President Emmanuel Macron might just be unclogged.
Brexit’s possible silver linings aside, the UK might decide to rejoin the EU again at some point.
Or it might be Scotland and the United Kingdom of England and Wales rejoining separately, after Northern Ireland has already remained inside or rejoined the EU as part a united Ireland (sort-of like how the former East Germany sneaked into the then European Community by reuniting with West Germany). Those possibilities remain questions for “political science fiction” writers.
Regardless of whether Brexit is already a foregone conclusion, or might be reversed, it’s high time for the Brits and everybody else to truly look back in anger the entire Brexit debate in the UK.
Because the entire Brexit debate was framed all wrong.
Why should’ve Britain remained in the EU?
Because Britain is European.
Period. (Or “full-stop”, to honor “British-English-ness” one last time before the future EU English arrives.)
It’s that simple – with all the tremendous meaning behind being “European”.
Even if the anger is saved for later, what is there to see looking back at the Brexit debate?
An unlikely but quite real anti-EU establishment wielded fake news and a bright red bus managing to convince enough British voters that the EU was all evil, despondent, and corrupt.
They did it through the newly found power of social media and the still surprisingly powerful traditional media, especially the press.
So much so that when Brexit won 52:48, the English tabloids proclaimed “victory” as though Nelson had defeated Napoleon at Trafalgar.
Then the hard questions started pouring in, and many leading figures from the newly arisen anti-EU establishment ducked down, shrank down, or just vanished.
They had done their “job”, and they had done it handsomely.
They had managed to frame the entire Brexit debate in a way that boded a clear loss for United Europe’s lofty ideals. But they had been so subtle few could sense it until the bewildering non-hangover desperation of the morning of June 24, 2016.
How did Britain’s newly prominent anti-EU establishment pull it off?
Most importantly, they made sure the Brexit debate was never about values, principles, and belonging!
And certainly not those of a 21st century Europe!
The Brexit debate was made all about shallow (mis)calculations of Britain’s alleged self-interest.
It was always about money, finance, the economy, jobs, migrants, immigration, guest workers. It was sometimes about security, intelligence gathering, sovereignty.
But was never about the values of Europeanness, the West, democracy, freedom, the Judeo-Christian civilization, shared fate, shared burden, and shared responsibility.
The Leavers were so efficient that the Remainers didn’t even try to fight this unfair framing of the Brexit debate.
For some reason, the Remainers acquiesced with excluding the ideals of the European Union, this entity that is the greatest achievement of human civilization since the Reformation, a central pillar of the 21st century West, and of the most democratic world order to have ever existed.
It’s ironic since if there is one thing the story of the West teaches you, it’s that when you have values you hold on to them no matter what. You don’t roll over.
And if you don’t fall for new “Munichs”, you won’t have to push yourself to the brink in the ensuing “Battles for Britain”.
All those tit-for-tat arguments that completely dominated the Brexit debate in the UK do matter.
But humans aren’t motivated only by technical practicalities and consumerism. Humans are far more motivated by visions, values, passions, and ideals. All the more so when it comes to the civilization that gave the world the guiding lights of human rights, democracy, and freedom.
If values and ideals ever came up throughout the Brexit debate, those weren’t the values and ideals of the European Union that has transformed an entire densely populated continent from a powder keg into the most peace-loving part of the world in merely several decades.
The anti-EU establishment “framers” of the Brexit debate seemed to possess an operational time machine because they managed to go back in time framing any talk about values, dignity, valor, in, say, 1810 – Pre-Victorian – Battle of Trafalgar terms.
The Brexit debate was never about the prosperity the EU has helped bring to the entire European continent and beyond, Britain included.
And never about the unbelievable moral might of voluntary non-abusive supranationalism the EU has proven possible for the very first time in the history of humans!
Against this backdrop, a country’s EU-Exit debate can’t be all about the “lavish” Eurobureaucracy that is far smaller than most member state bureaucracies anyway. It’s just not fair. It’s just wrong.
(Brussels bureaucrats are cutting in on your sovereignty? Well, maybe you’re not the British Empire anymore…)
Before the Brexit referendum, the English tabloids uplifted the EU bureaucrats to such high level of evilness one got to thinking the poor eurocrats were almost nearly as evil as the truly, inherently hellish Eastern Europeans!
The problem with Brexit is that if you have a nice, good-spirited house with a few windows broken, you don’t buy a brand new house, or even burn it down and go homeless. You just fix the windows. Especially, if you have been one of that house’s builders for decades, and have been enjoying a prime seat at the dinner table.
There shouldn’t (have) be(en) any Brexit. The UK should (have) stay(ed) in the EU.
Because it is European.
That’s where it belongs civilizationwise. It has helped build that European Union, and, respectively, it has benefited tremendously from it.
Yet, 21st century European values, principles, and belonging were deliberately frozen out of the Brexit debate.
Instead, the entire Brexit debate was framed over “who gets what the stuff”, and even then Leave succeeded thanks to distortions because even there the Brexiteers with their bright red bus got it mostly wrong.
Even if you technically are a net contributor to the EU, the peace, stability, prosperity, freedom, democracy, and connectedness the Union has spread far and wide are priceless. And the financial revenues you’ve generated as a result are probably countless.
The Brexiteers knew that if the Brexit debate had been about the European values of today, the British people would never have fallen for Brexit, and they would have been soundly defeated.
It’s now time for the EU to capitalize on the soon to be missing British veto.
And for the UK, it’s finally time to look back in anger. A lot. At how and who framed the Brexit debate.
Hopefully, at least the looking back in anger will be done in fair play, and won’t be wrongly framed.
(Banner image: Pixabay)