November 30, 2016
What does Brexit really mean? A good place to start is the question voters were asked on 23rd June: should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the EU? So at the very least we can say that Britain will at some point cease to be a member of the EU – no mention of the single market, or the customs union, or of Euratom, Europol and the European Space Agency.
Maybe the Prime Minister can enlighten us? After all, she wouldn’t be in her job without the Brexit referendum. ‘Brexit means Brexit’, she tells us, sounding tough and, yes, possibly as though she meant ‘Brexit means hard Brexit’. But in the end using a word to define its meaning doesn’t get us very far, in fact it feels as if we’re running around in circles.
Maybe this is all intentional, to keep the other side guessing? Second-hand car dealers don’t tell you what they’ve got up their sleeves, so why should the British Government?
We’re left searching for clues, a bit like Sherlock Holmes. Fortunately digital cameras are now so good that you can read any handwriting on a piece of paper, even at some distance, and even if it’s on the move from No. 9 to No. 10 Downing Street, carried by an aide to a senior Tory politician.
On this piece of paper we read ‘have cake and eat it’. So now we’re getting somewhere, and to make sure people understand, let’s translate it for the French and Germans, to let them know how serious and ambitious we are about Brexit. The equivalent in French would be: ‘On ne peut pas avoir à la fois le beurre et l’argent du beurre.’ And the nearest in German ‘Man kann nicht gleichzeitig auf zwei Hochzeiten tanzen.’
Our position on Brexit, therefore, is this: we want to eat our cake and hang on to it; we want both, the butter and the money we got from selling the butter, and we want to dance at two weddings simultaneously, all in all not unlike Schroedinger’s cat.
It is, in fact, extremely difficult to find out anything more specific about either the process or the outcomes of Brexit, perhaps because for its most ardent supporters Brexit is not so much a political concept as a view of the world and a state of mind. It’s helpful in creating unambiguous moral categories: the people have issued a clear mandate, so this must surely mean a clean, quick, hard Brexit. Anybody who wants to discuss the procedure, the role of parliament, the pros and cons of remaining in the single market is branded an enemy of the people. And you can sniff them out everywhere, in the judiciary, in politics, in the media. These people often have a past, they can be unmasked as Europhiles, or, even worse, as arch-Europhiles.
They are bad losers. They want to prevent Brexit, slow it down, water it down. They are unpatriotic. They are undemocratic, because they refuse to remain silent while the majority have their say.
Nigel Farage had a warning for the 48% who voted to stay in the EU: ‘For those of you who aren’t particularly happy with what happened in 2016, I’ve got some really bad news for you. It’s going to get a bloody sight worse next year.’
Brexit is slowly taking on a meaning through this kind of bullying language, and there is a risk that it will be defined by its most extremist supporters – Britain’s own alt-Right. They have read their Lewis Carroll:
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
Of course everybody has to accept that Brexit will happen. But the 48% have a democratic right to be heard, both about the process and the end result.
Fritz GroothuesAuthor : ¿Que gigantes?