Despite the Leave campaign’s protestations to the contrary, the pro-EU movement’s prophetic vision, dubbed ‘Project Fear’, is coming to pass. This is why we need a second referendum: not because Remain would win, but because we now have the tangible evidence with which to make an informed choice, says Chris Wright CBE.
Once we leave the EU, our island nation will be so idyllic, so politically powerful, so economically strong, so culturally rich, that it seems those who fought so hard for Brexit are making sure they stay well away.
At least, that seems to be the message sent––envoyé, should I say?––by Lord Lawson, the former chancellor and fervent Brexiteer who, as chairman of the Vote Leave campaign, did his utmost to ensure that the generations to come will pay for his parochialism while he sunned himself in France. Lord Lawson, a Conservative peer, told the magazine Connexion that he is applying for his carte de séjour, which will guarantee his rights as an EU citizen after Brexit. Any notion that he blew the trumpet for Brexit with such determination so that he could return to these shores has been banished; what we are seeing here is the most appalling kind of hypocrisy: a wealthy, older, politically powerful and well-connected man sells his country down the river and then not only remains abroad, but enjoys the luxuries afforded by the bloc he told us to leave.
But why are we surprised? Hypocrisy seems to be one of the defining qualities of the leading Brexiteers. Let us not forget the reaction of Jacob Rees-Mogg when the House of Lords inflicted its defeat on the Government and “blocked Brexit”. Rees-Mogg, who so often invoked the primacy of the Houses of Parliament in the build-up to the EU referendum, said the Lords had “contempt for the electorate” and that the vote showed the “arrogance of their Lordships.” When Nick Clegg brought forward legislation that proposed replacing the Lords with an 80 per cent elected chamber, Rees Mogg was amongst its saboteurs. (This kind of hypocrisy is not out of character: Rees-Mogg, who is against abortion even in the case of rape, profits from the sale of abortion pills.)
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, meanwhile, refused to give up his £73,000-a-year EU pension despite “railing against the EU gravy train”, as Lib Dem Tom Brake put it. And how could we forget the duplicity of Labour MP Gisela Stuart? On the 1st June 2016, Gisela Stuart signed a Vote Leave statement that declared there would be “no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK”. She later voted against a clause reading: “Nothing in this Act shall affect the continuation of those residence rights enjoyed by EU citizens lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on 23 June 2016.”
From the ridiculous suggestion that a second referendum would be “undemocratic” to the implication that an EU referendum vote won by just 52% to 48% demands the hardest possible incarnation of Brexit, the arguments of the Leave camp continue to be steeped in speciousness and even pure falsehood. And with this in mind, those people who voted for Brexit with good intentions need not double down on their euroscepticism. They were misled by those who represented them and were obliged to be honest.
The failures of the Remain camp have not escaped my notice: the campaign was sometimes uninspiring and the tone complacent; there was a preoccupation with economic arguments and fear-mongering. There was sometimes a hint of snobbery, and scant attention was given to matters of culture and values. Neither side covered itself in glory. But the proof that Remain ultimately had it right can be seen in the declining state of the country today. And with the impact of Brexit now palpable, it’s no surprise that if a vote on EU membership were held tomorrow, Remain would win out, and it would do so comfortably. This is why we need a second referendum: not because Remain would win, but because we now have the information that was withdrawn, wilfully misinterpreted, or altogether manipulated for cynical political reasons. Inward investment is non-existent and there is gross uncertainty for businesses. Our reputation abroad is plunging, and our soft power, by extension, is decreasing. The Good Friday Agreement is at risk and government has ground to a halt. Most nauseating is the rise in anti-immigrant feeling. Reporting on the latest depressing poll, one headline screamed: “British people now more negative about Brexit than ever before.” How could they not be?