Apathy, Incompetence and Distrust – The real causes of Brexit

We all feel the urge to condemn ourselves out of guilt, to blame others for our misfortunes and to fantasize about total disasterDeepak Chopra

Children, children wont someone please think of the children! The world economy is going to go down the pan, complete fiscal meltdown, as you can no doubt see by the state of the stock markets at their highest ever levels, no chocolate coins in any ones stocking, Mcdonalds will run out of Mcnuggets, unemployment levels are only going to be matched by the increase in rampant racism with the BNP being in power by 2020 and Larry the cat has lost his family.

All thanks to Brexit, and all thanks to me and 17 million others that voted for it. Selfish we are. Selfish and stupid. Selfish, stupid and racist actually. Add a splash of Xenophobic and a dash of Little Englander to that too while you are at it.

Don’t know why we were allowed to vote in the first place, plebs that we are. It’s an affront to democracy that we given the privilege of being able to put an X in a box. Christ knows I’m surprised I managed to spell “X”, such is my obvious lack of two functional brain cells.

Brexit for many is a travesty of almost apocalyptic proportions. And according to those that are in a state of mourning over the whole thing, the blame lays squarely with those that voted for it.

Well, I don’t actually think there is anything to “blame” people for. The world is still spinning, markets are still functioning, you dear reader are still very much alive, The KKK are not instigating public floggings of anyone a darker shade than milk and Justin Bieber is still a knob. Everything is as it should be – however if you really must play the blame game, I think we need to look away from the actual voters, as that was a symptom, not a cause.

We could cast our eye on the fact that during the referendum (and after), the Leave campaign was deplored as the one pitching about irrational fears of an actually fantastic political union. Supposedly wholly latching on to Xenophobic leanings of an uneducated electorate. Yet if that is so, then lets ask why the remain side could not, or would not campaign based upon a message of hope within the EU. A message of positivism that not only showed any fears of the EU to be patently false but the benefits of remaining being the message, not the threat of leaving.

Why didn’t they talk up the supposed benefits of EU membership repeatedly and regularly throughout the campaign? I can count on one hand the media messages that were of a positive nature. The remain campaign was based on smashing the electorate with financial and personal insecurities. Painting the UK as some kind of third world backwater in the event of Brexit. It wholeheartedly deserved it “project fear” moniker.

The trouble was that project fear was used in the Scottish referendum and the 2015 General election too. If you go to a well too often, don’t be surprised when it runs dry. But my original question remains. if the EU is so fantastic for us, why couldn’t our biggest politicians convince us of that?

Lets ask why everything concerning the EU’s direction had to be so secretive and hidden. The EU is ultimately heading for a complete union of its member states. That is one of its aims. Yet to discuss that here, Europhiles and politicians flat out deny it. Only to be rumbled a year or so later when the wheels of the EU continue to turn ever slowly on.

A couple of small examples. A few years ago, you may remember a debate between Nick Clegg and a relatively unknown Nigel Farage on the subject of an even more unknown EU. Within this debate two things happened of note, that would ultimately influence Brexit to a degree.

First and foremost Clegg denied that the EU was heading for a union of military forces. His exact words were

This is a dangerous fantasy. The idea that there’s going to be a European air force, a European army, it is simply not true.” – Nick Clegg, 2 April 2014

Yet this was almost instantly proven to be false by historical statements from Jean Claude Junker and other senior EU figures calling for exactly that. This and other evidence was again disclosed in the referendum by the Leave campaign, insinuating the EUs aims were being hidden from us. By the way, Farage was entirely correct.  The aim of an  EU army has also now been proven due to whitepapers unveiled by Germany.

The second thing that happened in this debate, was that Clegg was soundly beaten by Farage and it put Nigel, UKIP and the EU in the minds of the electorate and importantly, all of the media, in a much bigger way than before. It’s fair to say the majority of people didn’t have much of an interest in the EU before UKIP started to gain traction, and without the rise of UKIP there is no question we wouldn’t have had the referendum in the first place.

Then there are things like TTIP, a trade deal being thrashed out behind closed doors, which eventually inevitably leaked documents, prove to be just as bad as everyone feared despite claims to contrary.

These are just two small examples, but if the Europhile politicians are constantly showed to be lying and hiding things about the EU, why in gods name should the public have trusted anything they uttered during the referendum campaign – that’s on top of the trust they have eroded through their own lies at elections and through their expense receipts. If the EUs ultimate direction is so great, so fantastic, why the need to hide and obscure it so much. Why couldn’t a union of states be pitched as a good thing if it actually is?

Also, concern over uncontrolled immigration is very much a thing. A lot of people don’t like too much of it. I’m sorry if that troubles any Greens, Corbynites or any of my fellow friends in the London media. If that makes you splutter into your afternoon kale juice, I apologise. But that is the truth of the matter.

Lets not get into the pros and cons of immigration here, but look at the fact we knew it was a concern for a lot of people. Lets suppose for sheer arguments sake that it was only the 3 million UKIP voters with immigration concerns, no one else in the UK cared. Because, you know, immigration concern is apparently racist and no one wants to be called racist etc.

Then lets suppose only half of those had legitimate concerns, enough to make them vote Leave over any other factor. That is still a huge number of people. Enough to swing a referendum vote actually, and let’s face it, I’m being stupidly generous with those numberwang figures.

What are those people to do, when a Tory government promises to bring immigration down to “the tens of thousands”. Then  over a 6 year period is proven to be talking absolute bollocks, and actually its a city the size of Coventry every single year? Then the PM asks to be re-elected again, on a cast iron promise to renegotiate terms with the EU, promising reforms including immigration control. He comes back with a deal no-one can even remember what it was without searching Google, because it was that piss poor. Why did they lie over immigration so much, why not admit nothing could be done about free movement but display positives and a concrete argument for it?

Remain did at least try the “reform the EU” angle I suppose, but no-one was going to believe that it was possible given Cameron had just tried, and come back with a piece of paper promising a deal worth half a penny, some brass buttons and a tuft of lint. Why didn’t the EU try to do more. To look at the growing cries not just from the UK but from parts of France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands and other EU states and decide that some decent pan EU reforms were possible and needed?

What about the last 3 Prime Ministers repeatedly promising referendums on the EU and not delivering any of them over a period spanning 18 years? Imagine all those voters that voted for those governments on the basis of a referendum and their eventual reaction when finally they are given the chance.

Are you going to risk voting remain if you know from past experience that the chances of you getting another shot once the politicians promise on the EU turn out to be false again are smaller than a fleas bobble hat? Of course not. You will take this one chance because you won’t get another.

No look, this has gone on far enough. If you want someone to blame for Brexit, if you really want to blame anyone, then you need to look at the piss poor leadership of those in power over the past two decades and the rod they made for their Brexit back.

Then a cursory glance at the absolute shower of a campaign that Remain led wont go amiss. The dire campaign where those beacons of optimism Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Micheal bloody Gove managed to convey a message of coherency and positivity better than the opposing side.

Once you have done looking there, spare a thought for the fact that neither the EU, nor the vast majority of UK politicians thought us peons would ever dare vote to leave, so they did absolutely nothing worthwhile to stop it.

Apathy, incompetence and a lack of trust caused Brexit. Myself and the 17 million others that voted to leave unfortuantly had no hand in that.



3 thoughts on “Apathy, Incompetence and Distrust – The real causes of Brexit

  1. Tried to post this on your Facebook share of this, but it won’t post, so I’ll put it here:

    Some good stuff in this article, heartening to read in a point of view that I fundamentally disagree with. Firstly, a general point: This article is nowhere near the worst for this that I have read (indeed it’s one of the best from its POV), but this still bears pointing out – complaining about being tarred with a broad brush by another group while tarring that whole group with an equally broad brush is not a route to mutual understanding. Rather, it is a route to quickly putting everyone’s backs up. See below for more details.
    And a corollary that doesn’t apply to the article, but does apply to all too many commenters on articles with similar sentiments – the moment a comment uses a put-down like “Bremaniac” or some of the buzzwords already used in this thread is the moment that I scroll down the page with a certain amount of irritation and discomfort at their preference to spread hate over understanding. Throwing insults = everyone going backwards.

    After this I’m going to adopt Darren’s scheme of working by paragraph:

    P1. Yeah, a lot of us are pretty worried. In particular, I’m a scientist, a label encompassing various of the industries in which the UK is truly still strongly heard at the top table, and science funding is entering some very uncertain times specifically because of this vote. It does look likely that our roles in these (and hence numbers of jobs etc) will be sizably diminished specifically because of this vote. Mocking us for being worried doesn’t help.

    P2-4. You might be surprised, but people are in general aware that there was a lot more to the Leave vote than the reprehensible attributes that you mention and then rail against the assumption of. For example, the anger at the dismantling of the regions that has been Tory party policy for a generation and more now is not restricted to those regions – though of course people feel it more sharply where it is biting. That said, the fact that you voted specifically to make life less attractive to those mourning the loss is a very stark point that it is hard to look past just yet. Time heals all, but this hurts, and you must acknowledge that you played your part in hurting some good people by voting the way you did if we are ever to get past this.
    And it must also be acknowledged that those ugly attributes that you deplore played their part in the vote going the way it did. People with bigoted attitudes or tendencies towards them found the popular narrative was flowing in the same direction as their thoughts for once, and eagerly latched on. They feel enabled and boldened by it all. I was shocked to see in the paper the day after the vote a photo of the National Front demonstrating in Newcastle with a banner reading “Start Repatriation Now”; how ignorant, how brazen, how hurtful, how unBritish – how unfamiliar, how 1970s. Whether or not you are happy to have lifted it, a stone has been lifted, and wishing that it hadn’t isn’t going to solve the social problems created by doing so.

    P5. So as I mentioned, science funding is in trouble right now because of this, threatening a lot of jobs, and very interesting ones at that. European collaborations that have included British research teams for many years are stepping away from them, not wanting to include British institutions on grant applications due to uncertainty of what our status will be in a few years. Due to the policies of Cameron’s governments, UK’s direct science funding has shrunk a lot in the last few years, but the EU made up the shortfall out of its larger pockets. Do we think the Tory party will be keen to take this financial commitment on to preserve our jobs and position? Past form is not encouraging.
    I should also mention that while we are seeing some economic effects already, with a number of multinationals announcing planned job losses and relocations, we’re only one month out from what was seemingly a surprise result to the markets, and any exit from the EU is at least 2 years away. This is going to take a long while to unwind, and no-one will be legitimately able to happily declare “Well, we were all worried over nothing” for a decade or two yet. It’s nice that we all still have jobs and that things don’t feel any worse in the street right now. But the matter is not concluded here – what you’ve voted to set in motion is not yet done – or even really started, in fact.

    P6-8. Yeah, the referendum campaign was an utter disaster from all sides. People didn’t want to listen to any more warnings (even if they were accurate – as you say, Cameron’s team were widely distrusted because of past sins), and nobody prominent stood up to make the positive case for the EU that is part of why so many of us (across all sorts of demographic boundaries) felt heartbroken at the result – some quite unexpectedly. Further, watching verifiable untruths (£350m to NHS, Turkey to join EU, EU army to be formed, etc) gaining traction day by day was an extraordinarily disheartening situation. When Gove said that the public had “had enough of experts”, it was hard to know whether he was glorying in the success of the campaign lies told in his name or issuing us all a warning about our future direction.
    So, as I mentioned above, catchy divisive labels concern me. They resonate beyond any reason and leave people poking at each other. “Project Fear” was coined during the Scottish referendum, and used then to try to make it impossible for any of the potent negative points that a potential UK break-up would create to be made. It was recycled this time around, and this time it worked. Any event creates a variety of outcomes that can basically be placed on a spectrum running from good to bad. One adds them up and makes a judgement as to whether the change is worth the hassle. But when it is made impossible for the negative outcomes to be examined, then the judgement cannot be accurately made. It was a tactic perfectly pitched to dismember the officially presented Remain position, which as you say unforgivably failed to present the EU positively – all their arguments at a stroke removed from the table, for no good reason.

    P9. The EU is what the member states make of it. Certainly there are forces within it seeking increased political union, but they aren’t the only forces, and nor are they even the dominant force. Even if they did produce a merged country out of some of its members, would the UK have been in it? I really couldn’t see it – the Euro being the crucial piece of evidence. The UK already has negotiated various conditions favourable to its interests within the EU, notably staying out of the Euro, which makes very clearly the statement ‘We are in this, but only so far’.
    The phrase “ever closer union” is one that resonates. It is heard as an official policy for political integration. But in fact it is only ever officially used by the EU in an aspirational social sense, promoting international harmony: https://fullfact.org/europe/explaining-eu-deal-ever-closer-union/

    P10. What you write does not demonstrate “proven false”; there’s a jump in the logic. Juncker calls for an EU army. It hasn’t happened and no plans are in place for it to happen, despite Juncker holding the most powerful office in the EU. This is what Clegg was saying – even in this situation where those in control call for it, it isn’t happening – there is no collective political will for it – as a democratic institution, the EU doesn’t impose like this. We already have NATO to pool military resources – an EU army would be a pointless duplication.
    I am puzzled why the idea of an EU army strikes such fear into some people’s hearts when we are already in NATO. I am also puzzled why some people bought this piece of fear-projecting when they were so adamant that they weren’t going to give any credence to negative forecasts that didn’t suit their interests.

    P11. I don’t remember the debate in question; guess I’ll have to take your word for it on Farage’s strength of performance. I’ve always found him intuitively untrustworthy to listen to, an obvious spinner of fantasies that suit him, and a nasty bully to boot, so I suspect it may have looked different to me. You’re definitely right to pinpoint some of the public focus on the subject on the rise of UKIP. I’d argue that they were tapping into a pre-existing well of feeling that had been stoked by decades of our largest print newspapers displaying naked anti-EU aggression day in day out, even in earlier times when the balance of public opinion was much more positive on the subject. Murdoch and Dacre played prominent roles in all this.

    P12. TTIP is something of a red herring regarding this, I came to conclude. The most enthusiastic supporter for its worst excesses within the EU was the UK, and specifically the Tory party. We have the ability to ringfence areas from it, for example the NHS – but given that it is official Tory party policy to privatise it, they weren’t interested. TTIP is a worry, but it is very much in accord with the mind of our elected government, whose wishes were instrumental in drawing it up. And it is not done and dusted within the EU either – other countries with stronger socialist governmental inclinations than the UK are not happy with it as stands, and it must pass all. Staying in the EU might well have seen us rescued from the worrying bits by countries like France, whereas leaving puts all the control in the hands of its architects.
    So one can even argue that TTIP is an argument to stay in the EU. But I think probably best just to say that it isn’t really relevant to factor into one’s thinking when deciding. It’s complex, and there are lots of unknowns.

    P13. Yes, nobody trusts our politicians right now. It’s a real problem for our public discourse, especially when combined with the slanting effect of a shouty right-wing print media that enjoys the highest circulation figures. Murdoch and Dacre find themselves able to implant ideas without too much trouble at the moment, a situation that desperately needs challenging. But Leveson represented that – the law fought the press – and, given that all is back to what it was before now – one has to say that the press won.
    I think though that this is a larger trend than opinion on the EU by some way; one subject just happens to have arisen and been enabled by the other. As you say regarding another question in your article, a symptom, not a cause.

    P14-17. Yes, concern over immigration is a real thing, and real things cannot just be swept under the carpet. But the underlying pressures people are feeling relate to domestic policies, not EU ones.
    If there is an influx of people to an area where work is scarce and support is in peril because of Thatcher’s legacy and Cameron’s ideological reduction of the state, then of course people will resent the new arrivals. But that is a failure of UK policy – one long noted and worried over. We cannot all live as London suburbs; we must do as Germany did and invest substantially in making our other cities thrive enough to challenge London. It takes time and money, but it has to be done, for the good of people – and even for a hypothetical hard-hearted politician that doesn’t care about the people, it has to be done in order to avoid this kind of explosive electoral display down the line.
    The other issue that tends to worry people is the creation of social boundaries between incomers and those already there. Where this happens, it is a problem, and one only easily solved by the passage of enough time for a couple of generations to grow up. But it can be eased and this process smoothed and hastened by the adoption of policies and measures designed to bring people together and to increase their mutual goodwill. In the main, UK policy in recent years has provided few such incentives, preferring to go for the cheap but harmful option of just forgetting about them.
    But regarding this second point, are people really being that concerned about a cluster of Polish families living next door to each other? I hear far more concern about areas populated by people that have come from non-EU countries. This vote has no possible bearing on immigration from outside the EU – but anecdotally one hears plenty of stories about people acting as if it represented a rejection of anything foreign.
    To vote to leave the EU out of concern over immigration was to miss the point badly and blame the wrong powerful people. I do blame the Tory party for seeking to appease this wrong-headed thinking by going along with it in making simplistic promises on reducing immigration numbers. It is not the level of immigration that is the problem, it is our handling of it.

    P18. The whole “reform the EU” narrative I found also to be a catchy divisive label that obscured the truth. The truth is that the UK has been intimately involved in the creation of the modern EU structure for decades, and the modern EU reflects many British priorities, with us having gotten our way more often than our size would suggest. If we don’t like what we’ve helped to create, then we must blame ourselves in part. And then set about using our outsize influence as the ‘leaders of the less keen’ (to coin a phrase) to fit it to us better. This is what we’ve done for all this time, and successfully too. To reduce this to buzzphrases like “The EU is unreformable”, as many have, does the debate a serious disservice.
    I think it is clear that there is substantial appetite around the EU for some profound changes, as you point out. They’ll come, but we’ll now be gone by then.

    P19-20. I don’t actually remember any promises of referenda on the subject made by political rulers in the past (and nor does a quick Google)? Have I forgotten or overlooked some?
    I remember a lot of heat over the Maastricht treaty in the 90s (mostly within the Tory party), and the suggestion that a referendum ought to be held, but never from politicians with any influence.

    P21-24. Yep. Complacency, arrogance, and out-of-touchness doomed it. And now those of us who didn’t want any change have to live with a change voted for, the reasoning presented for which (and apparently bought) looked far more like bullying and personal gratification than debate. We are hurting right now, and that is in itself a problem that needs to be solved.


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