This piece was first published on The Commentator.
The infantilism and anti-intellectualism of the anti-Brexit camp has created much unnecessary bad feeling in Britain. But, like the Fellow Travellers of the Cold War, they are the ones that will ultimately suffer when history hands down its judgement
Labour MP Laura Pidcock has achieved a certain notoriety in recent days for her wholly bigoted and blinkered assertion that she will never befriend any of her Conservative parliamentary counterparts on the grounds that they are the “enemy”.
It is a classic expression of the totalitarian mind: the total demonisation of political opponents is the counterpart to the total glorification of the millenarian cause and, often, the leader at its helm.
It is no accident that the personality cult on the one hand and, to appropriate Orwell, the “two-minute” hate of the oppositionist on the other, is a central part of the Left-wing tradition.
But, if the sorry state of Britain’s anti-Brexit Remain camp is anything to go by, hyper-personalisation of politics combined with an almost total rejection of inconvenient evidence which threatens ideological certainties, is a feature that is not exclusive to the old Marxist-Leninist edifice.
It remains the case, well over a year after the referendum, that Remain supporters will not even speak to ertswhile friends, and, in some cases, family members who backed Brexit.
Mothers keep the peace at the dinner table by hurriedly moving the topic of conversation away from Britain’s impending departure from the EU lest angry Remainers cause a scene.
It is never the other way around. And this is not simply because Brexit won. There would have been a few loonies on the Leave side had the vote gone the other way. Some on the darker fringes of the internet would probably still be banging on about how the referendum had been “rigged”.
But the great mass of Brexiteers, including those surrounding The Commentator, would have extended the hand of friendship to the victorious camp, and moved on, in much the same fashion that we all have to get over a defeat at a general election.
Not so the Remain camp, and this is very far from being a pathology that affects their fringe. Right through the centre ground of Remain there is a viciousness and a disdain that will not go away.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Brexit is being driven by free trade internationalists, Brexiteers are still cast as small minded anti-immigrant chauvinists who want to pull up the drawbridge and retreat into a mythical Golden Age when Britannia ruled the waves and Johnny Foreigner knew his place.
The fact that the post-Brexit immigration regime will most likely resemble Canada’s — widely praised as the most fair-minded and efficient immigration system on the planet — is erased from a mindset that so desperately needs to demonise its opponents that no amount of evidence will ever shake it.
It is the same with the endlessly repeated distortion that Brexit only won due to a campaign of lies. In fact, the only significant claim that could be construed as dishonest was on the amount of money Britain would be able to spend on the NHS once it stopped paying its dues to Brussels.
But the £350 million a week claim was more an exaggeration than an outright lie. We do not countenance it. Nothing short of total honesty in political campaigning will ever do. But the fundamental truth that, post-Brexit, Britain will be able to spend money it is currently sending to the EU on institutions such as the NHS is sound.
Compare that with the entire edifice of lies that formed the core of the Remain Campaign. Project Fear, as it was rightly called, made any and every claim that it could about impending doom with reckless and total disregard for the truth.
This included bizarre claims about excrement piling up on our beaches once we were no longer subject to EU environmental regulations, and the now infamous, and wholly disproved, predictions of immediate economic collapse.
They didn’t just get it wrong, they didn’t care whether they got it wrong. When they made the predictions, truth or falsity were irrelevant considerations. Scaremongering trumped all.
The dishonesty continues as they refuse to take account of economic data showing that we didn’t go into the predicted recession, unemployment tumbled (to a 42 year low) rather than soared, foreign direct investment skyrocketed rather than sank without trace.
They hang every remianing piece of credibility on the decline of the pound, something quite predictable (and predicted by many Brexiteers, including ourselves) and which is due to sentiment about uncertainty and not a decline in our economic fundamentals. When the pound reverses course, as it will once Brexit is finally accomplished, they will have nothing left, their reputations and their credibility in tatters, never to recover.
And that is the price these people will pay. You can’t get something as big as this wrong and hope that people won’t notice. Future historians will look at their record absent the emotionally charged atmosphere of the times, and their judgement will be harsh.
It is reminiscent of what happened at the end of the Cold War when many Western Fellow Travellers of Communism had to face up to their final defeat in a world historic clash of ideas. It was too much for many who emerged as the “broken people”, left with nothing much to say, and less to offer. They had invested too much in a cause that had been definitively defeated. They had nowhere to go.
All the signs are that the Remain camp is heading the same way. They need Brexit to fail just as the Fellow Travellers needed Capitalism to fail. But it won’t. Even if there are a few bumps on the way, there is very little chance that Brexit will alter the trajectory of the British economy one way or the other.
We may benefit somewhat from free trade agreements that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to forge as members of the EU. We may see a very slight fall in the first year or two in trade with the EU, if a free trade deal is not forthcoming. But the overall success of the British economy will depend on how we manage it. Just as the overall success of Germany and France will depend on how they manage their economies, not on their membership of the EU.
Time will tell, and, in any case we can debate these matters. But it is difficult to have a sensible debate so long as Remainers refuse to accept a democratic referendum, and continue in their shameful, hyperpersonalised, and often infantile, approach to their defeat.
They need to get over themselves. If they can’t, history will not be kind to them, and it is they who will suffer most.
Robin Shepherd is Editor of The Commentator