By Ed Pond, Labour Activist
Watching the speeches of those MPs opposing the Article 50 bill, it was a comprehensive recap of the unconvincing pro-EU arguments that have festooned the entire debate. Here are some of the best, or worst!
7. 'I am a passionate European.'
We all are. Well, we're all European, anyway. Continents made of different countries do not usually have formal political allegiance and economic centralism. We will continue to be part of Europe, and will work with our neighbours and wish them well, no matter what happens to the EU.
8. 'The EU has kept the peace in Europe, and we are jeopardising that.'
Usually coupled onto 'passionate European' is this notion. The war graves of Flanders are often invoked to provide emotional clout, while the orator ignores other larger factors that have kept peace such as NATO, The Marshall Plan, mutually assured destruction, and globalisation in general. The notion that the EU system creates tension between member states, antagonises other nearby powers and is travelling towards having its own military force, is also disregarded.
9. 'But Donald Trump wants us to leave, and he's horrible!'
The Donald Situation has been a gift to the anti-Brexit brigade. Before it allowed for an abstract connection between the two cranky populist movements, made with a nudge and a wink. Now he's actually in office, and Brexit's success partly depends on lining up a US trade deal, it is no holds barred. Trump = Hitler. Still wanting Brexit = appeasement. Mr President hasn't helped matters by doing reactionary things, and he isn't someone who, in Corbyn's words, 'you would take home to meet your mother'; but we have to do business with him and try our best to be a moderating influence. If you disagree on that, then at least realise that even if Trump does welcome us leaving, that is by no means a reason to go back on our decision, which we took before we he was even a consideration. It was our choice and nobody else’s. Unless the Russians hacked everything...
10. 'People voted on a journey, not a destination.'
Tired of tackling this one, but here we go. All the implications of leaving were discussed at length, seemingly in every single debate. Both sides made clear that single market and customs union membership was on the line. Were some people not aware? Yes. Some people don't really grasp what voting for a party in a general election will mean, either. But this surely isn't true of most voters, especially in this age of accessible information and rising political engagement. Looking at this situation less subjectively, the whole point of the next two years is we work out the specific details of what our exit will entail. The MPs and Lords will contribute to that, and regrettably from our point of view, get a vote. The only purpose of the ‘journey/destination’ platitude, then, is to stall until the situation favours the diehard remainers once more (if it ever could!).
11. 'There is no mandate for a fraudulent leave campaign.'
Also tiresome. Exaggerations and half truths have been commonplace in all democratic elections throughout history. Both referendum camps used them. There were certainly some made on the leave side that I wouldn’t have gone with myself – much like Clegg disapproving of Osborne’s ‘punishment budget’ threat. But the public have learned to take two pinches of salt with things electioneering politicians say. Many people got very engaged with the debate and researched the facts, details and different points of view. There were many reasons for voting to leave, and a long history of our dysfunctional relationship with the flawed EU behind it. You cannot say that lies decided the outcome. That really is a lie, and one relied on heavily.
12. 'Watch out! Cliff!!'
The £350 million bus, in the remainer’s Cassandra-esque vision, crashes through the notorious refugees poster and hurtles into oblivion, as Johnson and Davis manically bicker like Vivian and Rik. Whatever. In terms of the two year time limit for negotiations, that will always be there, whenever we start Article 50. Would we really be any more prepared if we waited six months, twelve months? It is not a question of preparedness for the MPs that voted against it, it is about never wanting the process to start. It seems unlikely, anyway, that there has been no preparation over the last 8 months. The Brexit ministry and Civil Service will have been working on gearing us up for the process, negotiators will be getting phone-calls and the white paper the government produced is plausible. If we are calling leaving the EU in general a cliff, leading to the unknown, then the counter is that staying is also an unknown. And the way the EU has been going, continuing to have expansionist and statist policies in spite of the gargantuan mess they’ve made, it is fair to say remaining could be very damaging indeed.
If your MP opposed Article 50, why not write to them and ask why? Persuade them to back Brexit in the future.
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