Projects Fear, Fable, and Fig-leaf

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Projects Fear, Fable, and Fig-leaf

The politics of fear needs a fable to cover up the lies. Then it needs a fig-leaf to patch up the fable. Welcome to Fake Brexit 2019.

Theresa May’s government has always promised Brexit but offered something more like Remain, then fear-mongered that the alternative to her fake Brexit is no Brexit at all.

Her politics of fear are reminiscent of otherwise strange bed-fellows George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

G.W. used to claim that any querying of his policies would help the terrorists. Tony Blair warned that opposition would resuscitate either the loony left or the nasty right. Theresa May copies both of them, and warns that unless we support her fake Brexit, we’ll either stay in the EU forever or “crash out” with “no deal,” and the next government will be either Marxist (under Jeremy Corbyn) or “extreme” right-wing (where “extremist” is a Brexiteer).

In either fearsome fable, prices would go up, exports fall, jobs haemorrhage, shops run out of Belgian chocolate, hospitals close for want of medical staff, patients die for want of medicines, babies starve for want of affordable food, businesses go bankrupt with the cost of hiring, imports rot in queues of lorries on the borders from Ireland to Norway, Northern Irish peace fail, Jihadi terrorism explode in a vacuum of international isolation, and World War III break out.

I had thought May’s government had exhausted its inventiveness within Project Fear, but her Environment Secretary (Michael Gove) now warns that farmers would be unable to export and consumers would be unable to pay for food. These are strange claims, because the market for agriculture is greater, and food is cheaper and more diverse, outside the EU.

Theresa May’s government isn’t just re-inventing the Project Fear from before the referendum in June 2016. It added Project Fable in 2018, and now hopes for Project Fig-leaf in 2019.

Theresa May’s government and the EU are colluding to warn that the alternatives to their deal are fearsome with terrors and trials.

Her fake Brexit keeps Britain in the EU’s:

* customs union,

* defence and security union,

* jurisdiction,

* environmental regime,

* labour regime, and

* fisheries regime, with

* annual fees for every union, agency, and privilege,

* without any powers as a sovereign member, and

* without the independence to reach deals outside.

Yet her fable is that her fake Brexit is equivalent to:

* delivering on the referendum vote,

* taking back control of borders,

* ending EU jurisdiction,

* ending fee-paying,

* protecting trade with the EU while opening trade outside the EU,

* protecting jobs,

* enhancing alliances,

* protecting security,

* re-focusing our energies on other issues, and

* healing the divisiveness of the referendum.

You’ve heard Theresa May’s script, now you can see the video (her new year message). See the practiced cycle from sympathetic face, passionate belief face, sympathetic face (Tony Blair uncredited).

Yet May isn’t resting on Project Fear and Project Fable the Movie.

With more energy than she ever put into negotiating for Britain’s national interests, May launched a third project in December – Project Fig-leaf, which will go live next week.

Last month, she canceled Parliament’s vote on her Withdrawal Agreement in favour of another last minute rush – on the EU’s own timetable – to beg not for change but some non-binding promise that the EU would not actually enact the clause to keep Northern Ireland in the EU.

The EU rebuffed her at the time, but now we know that the two sides colluded to offer that Fig-leaf next week, just before Parliament’s postponed vote on her Withdrawal Agreement – the EU will promise not to keep Britain in the EU forever. Never mind that Ireland has reaffirmed the backstop, and has a veto on any changes – oh dear, May’s government needs another fable.

So you see: Projects Fear, Fable, and Fig-leaf are interconnected. To prevent Brexit, May’s government needs to make the Brexit-seeking majority fear Brexit. To hide the dishonesty of Project Fear, May’s government needs a fable. To patch-up the fable, she needs a fig-leaf.

Welcome to Fearsome, Fabulous, Figurative Brexit 2019.

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    Bruce Newsome
    Bruce Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of California Berkeley
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