A meditation on why stopping Brexit is a bad idea

Image courtesy of www.twitter.com/Remainia1

I understand why people want to stop Brexit from happening. I don’t agree that stopping Brexit from happening is wise. Here’s why.

Brexit is an idea with roots in various parts of the British psyche and culture. Everyone knows what they are. But, so we’re on the same page, my list goes like this;

Pride & nostalgia in a powerful past
Authoritarian conservative values
Ignorance of the EU & its institutions
Economic & social inequality
Desire in the political class for unfettered power to set — or remove — rules
Opportunities to cash in on economic shock
Simplistic binary interpretations of complex things
An island mentality
Mistrust of foreigners
Romantic rebellion against ‘elites’
A zealously anti-EU dominant political party
A deep conservative financial & military establishment with hidden influence
Jack-the-laddish two-fingers-up yob culture
Panglossian romantic intellectual conceits
Random flip-of-a-coin ‘give it a go’ polling booth moments
The rise of digitally mediated nationalism
Mistrust of institutions
Foreign digitally mediated influence

There are doubtless more. But the point is the disparate motivations of the 17 million people who crossed a certain box 21 months ago.

I can imagine a few goods coming from Brexit, if competent policy makers working for honest, visionary political leaders were to think about it — which we all know they won’t.

But in the main it’s going to be rubbish. For years. Except for the same people who tell you Brexit will be great. For them it will be great. They’ll get richer. But for everyone else it will fall somewhere on the spectrum between disappointment and disaster.

And people are going to need to see that.

Someone asked me the other day (inevitably on Twitter — because no one talks about this stuff in the real world) ‘you wouldn’t have been saying this two years ago — what’s changed?’

Here’s what’s changed.


The polls still show roughly the same split in the country. Sure, Leave and Remain have swapped in the 48:52 ratio, but it’s still within the margin of polling error.

There is clearly no great public appetite for any more votes on leaving the European Union or staying in it. At least, not at the moment. And that’s where we are.

We also now know — because the stories are unfolding at pace right now — that the pro-Brexit campaigns were morally illegitimate. Rules were broken, lies were told. But hardly anyone cares. They didn’t care in 2016 and they don’t care now. The most read story on my BBC News app this morning wasn’t the stellar work of Channel 4 News and the Observer/Guardian in coaxing out another whistleblower from Vote Leave. It was the first non-stop flight from Britain to Australia.

The sociopathic intellectual architect of Vote Leave’s strategy Dominic Cummings is even beating his chest, amid the furor around his revealed cheating, and now promising to lead Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights.

And one of Theresa May’s political right hand people has used the Number 10 Press Office to put a whistleblower’s life at risk.

This morning the self-serving clown currently somehow occupying the post of Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs popped up on Twitter to deny the evidence of wrongdoing we have been clearly shown and say ‘we won’ and ‘we’re leaving’. Just like an anonymous sockpuppet.

This is not a climate in which it is possible to stop Brexit. The corruption goes from the darkest recesses (we still don’t know where the DUP gets money from) of influence, all the way to the offices in Number 10.

The only people who can stop Brexit are the people who voted for it and they don’t want to. Nor, even, do a lot of the people who didn’t vote for it.

But here’s why Brexit is doomed anyway — and why trying to stop it only deepens the allure of this historically stupid endeavour.

An anecdote and a thought experiment.

My former Welsh neighbours voted to Leave. Lovely people. Friends I will always hold in my heart. Beef and sheep farmers. They didn’t like the paperwork associated with meeting EU Single Market rules. So they now think that burden will be lifted.

They didn’t think about whether the businesses they supply will still demand that paperwork. Or that if they don’t, that’s their current biggest export market gone. It was just the paperwork that bugged them. So they voted it away. Or so they thought.

Imagine my former neighbours if Brexit is stopped.

They will never realise their mistake. Instead they will feel cheated. And they will forever believe that leaving the EU is the answer to their problems. If only Brexit hadn’t been stopped, we’d no longer have this paperwork, they’d think.

Now scale that up to the hopes and dreams of the rest of the 17+ million Leave voters. At least, the ordinary ones who want nothing more than the return of old Mrs Miggins to run that Polish shop as a local haberdashery or something. Or the brickies and sparkies who just want an extra tenner an hour, like it used to be before someone with an unpronounceable name could double his income and still substantially undercut them.

Those middle-aged white, overweight, semi-alcoholics who think the hospitals will be able to sort them out that much quicker without all those migrants taking our places on the waiting lists.

Everyone motivated by elements of the list above will be feel let-down.

The list of disappointed people is going to be endless. We all know (those of us who have bothered to look at the wider economic effects of reducing immigration or having to pay more to do business abroad) that Brexit is a con.

But the people who voted for it don’t. They need to see it for what it is. They are not listening to you and they never will. It needs to be revealed to them.

If you deny them that revelation all you will do is keep them dreaming about it and pressing for it at every turn.

My neighbours thought I was clever and accomplished but they didn’t give a shit what I thought about Brexit. That’s how it is.

Bring on Brexit, I say. Which doesn’t make me pro-Brexit.

Your opponent’s weight is their weakness. Step aside, and let them trip and crash onto the mat of reality. The sooner reality bites, the better.

You’ll put Brexiters on the defensive only when they get their precious Brexit.

When you can really point at what they won…

Edit of an original image by www.twitter.com/Remainia1

Postscript. I was impressed by an argument I heard about the Trump presidential victory in this podcast. It seems salient to Brexit. Niall Ferguson argues that Trump needed to happen, for very similar reasons. I recommend giving this a listen https://samharris.org/podcasts/117-networks-power-chaos/

Independent journalist & PR consultant.