Theresa May continues where David Cameron left off. With blind incompetence the hard-line is deepening and widening the rift between people in the UK. It therefore seems that those wishing to retain their European citizenship have only one option – the remainers need to become leavers – and Europe needs to offer a route to enable them to take it.
It appears to be the latest and most commonly reported misunderstanding that the Brexit Referendum result demonstrates that a majority of British people want a ‘hard break’ with Europe. For a start, the referendum message by the Leave campaign was at best ‘mixed’ and at worst ‘deceptive’ regarding the terms of the UK’s position post Brexit. Thus, to call this a valid mandate for stripping all UK citizens of their EU citizenship is to misrepresent the actual sentiments and beliefs of the UK from a mere ‘snapshot’ seen during the vote on the 23rd June 2016. Since the referendum many Leavers have come out to clarify they voted in protest and regret the result. Add to this the millions whose voices were not heard or represented, in a referendum that was debated like a school-ground popularity contest. The “Remoaners”, therefore, are actually more likely to make up the majority – even more so as the economic realities (the £ hitting a 31 year low) begin to be felt.
So why are the political elite, headed by a PM who campaigned to remain in the EU, so keen to push the ‘Hard Brexit’ Line?
Firstly it is further evidence of the inability of British politicians to negotiate reasonably. Our politicians come from a culture of ‘hard negotiating’ – the tactic has always been to go in hard and back off a little to get what you want, our own parliamentary system functions by ‘strong stances’ followed by softening before an election. The problem is that European politicians, most of whom come from complex coalition-reliant democracies, are more used to negotiating by reason and compromise. An uncompromising stance will do the UK no favours – especially when the EU is holding most of the cards.
Secondly, two words sum up the motives of the new UK government: power and opportunity. The sovereignty argument for leaving the EU was a real and valid point. The problem is that the sovereignty will return from the EU, not into the hands of those who voted in the referendum, but into the hands of a UK PM who was not given a mandate at a General Election. The eyes of Theresa May and her Cabinet Ministers must light up at the power and opportunity presented to them to write their own Bill of Rights, regulations, agreements and legislation within the post-Brexit vacuum – especially without any real need for representation or further mandate from the people. The vote has already divided the electorate and continues to distract them enough with the secrecy and complexity of negotiations that are allowing the government a free-reign in reshaping whatever they want.
So, please forgive me for moaning but I feel completely detached from everything happening to my own rights and citizenship. Especially in light of the fact that, it would seem, the referendum result fails to represent public opinion.
But if the “Remoaners” are most likely a majority, what options do they have to change the course of the UK’s chaotic voyage towards a post-Brexit storm?
Let us consider some of the ideas:
Protest – This seems pointless. The failure of protests against tuition fees and most notably the mass protests against the Iraq War, stand as a constant reminder that waving flags and marching in the street have no impact upon the politicians in Whitehall’s Ivory Tower. Indeed protest and counter protest over Brexit would mainly result in a stalemate or descend into greater divisions, possibly even unproductive violence. Taking to the streets in the UK seems as effective as using a log to remove splinters. It would take a Maidan style occupation outside Westminster, and Brits do not have the stomach nor the time for such protest. Political activism is practically dead in the UK and the majority of the so called ‘Remoaners’ who want to do something are professionals too reliant on keeping their jobs to disappear from work and occupy swathes of London. Furthermore, public opinion – egged on by the media – would come out against such activism, with the need to uphold the ‘democratic referendum’ echoing from every TV channel and newspaper. Our overtly individualistic society, with no stomach for protest, would never succeed in challenging Brexit along such lines.
Petitioning – This is equally ineffective. The number of petitions has already been staggering. As has the number of signatures. What impact has it had? None. We have a political system that only recognises public opinion and accountability through ballot box votes every five years… or, so it would seem, flawed referendums.
Leaving – This is the last resort… and it would prove the most effective. Those able to are already seeking options to obtain second citizenship or new citizenship of EU countries. In a way, this should be ringing alarm bells already – or at least the Division Bells at Westminster. The majority of young voters and the majority of the most highly educated British citizens voted to remain in the EU. It is these people who are the cornerstone and future builders of our economy. Consequently, if a “hard Briexit” were to spark the greatest brain drain in British history, the UK economy would be shocked to its core and unable to recover for many years (particularly if immigration becomes too tightly controlled). Indeed, there is a significant opportunity here for the EU states facing the negotiations to profit from the apparent naivety, incompetence and short-sightedness of Theresa May’s uncompromising negotiating stance. Post Brexit Britain will be a competitor to the EU – and the EU can weaken Britain before the UK has even left Europe.
For example, Germany is already an attractive prospect for UK students who are saddled with crippling student debts – offering places to Briatain’s youngest and brightest youth with a dual promise of no student debt and an EU passport would both strengthen the German and EU economy for the future, whilst simultaneously twisting the Brexit knife. And why stop at students? The Euro-phones of the UK, even if we only count the flawed “48%” who voted in the referendum, represent a sizeable number of people currently feeling abandoned and humiliated by their own countryfolk, not to mention skeptical and unsure of their own economic future. Academics, doctors, engineers, technical specialists, even entrepreneurs and business executives could be easily tempted across the channel with the prospect of more employment security, stability and the freedoms that come from being an EU citizen.
Therefore, if those who wish to overturn a course that is stripping them of a citizenship many of them were born with – the option of leaving appears to be the last and only choice.
Taking the idea of “Remainers becoming UK Leavers” as the best course of action, the ‘remoaners’ first need to come out of hiding. To emerge from the bolt holes we have all scurried into to lick our wounds, and cower in fear that we might face the same vilification as those bearing the brunt of increased xenophobic slander. We should emerge from the shadows, not to protest – and not to “moan”. We should emerge not to challenge the skewed interpretations of the referendum – indeed let us accept it. With head held high, the ‘Remainers’ should simply say: “If that’s the way you all feel… good luck. I’m off to continue being European”. As Theresa May continues to makes pointless, insensitive speeches that continue to worsen the chances of an amicable break with the EU, the so called “Remoaners” should unite to start our own negotiations for retaining all the benefits of European Citizenship – a citizenship that, for me, I consider to be my birthright. An en-masse lobby of British citizens threatening to Exit-Britain for Europe, signalling the loss of many key members of the UK economy, society, education and academic systems would at the least require the negotiations for a ‘Hard Brexit’ to be reconsidered, at best it would force an entire rethink of Brexit. And if nothing changes, well at least we can have an escape route when the rats take the helm and steer a course for the nearest rocks.
If one tenth of the so-called “48%” were to actually leave the UK, the entire hard-line on immigration would be unworkable and the UK would sit in the economic doldrums unable to chart a course for future growth. I call on those who feel robbed of their rights, and those who sit on the continent fearful of a future without Britain, to find a route to allow the pro-European Brits to move to Europe after Brexit and continue to work together. If the so-called “52%” want to call the Remainers for ‘moaning’ then the time for reasoning has passed and the need for a new ‘British Exit’ should be seen as the only option for those wishing to keep hold of an EU citizenship they were born with.