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Do I “accept” that Britain is leaving the EU?

Monday, February 20, 2017 8:09
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Iain Dale has penned a pretty flimsy piece trying to justify May’s current Brexit course in light of what happened before the referendum here. I am not going to revisit why that argument is weak as I have already dealt with post-referendum reinterpretations here. Instead he rolled out the old line against my critique of his piece that ‘you just can’t accept we’re actually going to leave the EU‘.

Well actually Iain, yes, I can accept that Britain is going to leave the EU. In about the same way as I accept that Theresa May is UK Prime Minister or you had to accept that Tony Blair was Prime Minister back in the day. Essentially it’s something that you accept as a state of affairs at the moment, until the point at which there is no alternative or opposition becomes futile. On the Brexit issue we are very far from that end point and I wonder if we ever will reach it.

This approach is the essence of Blair’s speech last week – essentially accepting the current direction towards Brexit is the most likely, but arguing for a way out if the facts or the context change. We do not know how Brexit is going to work yet, or indeed if it will work, because the plans May has are so lacking in detail at the moment. Also what the UK government wants has not yet been tested against the will of the 27 other Member States of the European Union.

Further, what are you expecting me to do, Iain, just abandon all my values because a slim majority of the UK population has voted for something? Did you do that, Iain, when Blair was in power? No, of course not. Did the likes of John Redwood abandon their opposition to the EU in the long years between the 1975 referendum and the 2016 referendum? No.

Also I am enough of a curmudgeon to mean that I am used to being on the losing side and still stick at it – I’ve basically seen the party I support lose every election after 2005, while being an atheist green republican pro-EU federalist in the UK has never been an easy ride. But where I stand is all I have got – that people disagree with me is not going to stop me expressing my point of view, and nor should it.

So by all means make your case for Hard Brexit, Iain, but at least make it on its merits and make sure your case stands up to scrutiny, and I will rightly oppose the process every step of the way. It was wrong before 23rd June just as it is still wrong after the referendum – in my view. A slim majority of the UK population took a different view, but unlike too many others on the Remain side, I am not going to fold and give up, just as you and your ilk on the right didn’t during the Blair years.


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