Brexit – where next?

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David Cameron has resigned but will remain in office until October and the Conservative Party conference. Article 50 covers the hitherto unknown process of a member state leaving the EU. He feels that this task should be left for his successor. 

We must not lose the impetus; unless there are compelling reasons to wait I see no need. Although I am relieved that the government are discussing the next action; the referendum was advisory so technically it could have been ignored. 

The people of the United Kingdom have no quarrel with our fellow man in the other 27 countries of Europe and I believe it is our duty to assist them to achieve referenda of their own on the subject of their continued membership. We chose the open sea yesterday, but the open sea leads to old friends, kin and allies all over the world. Certain parties in Denmark called for their own referendum this morning. 

Eurosceptic parties the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and the Danish People’s Party (DF) both characterized the referendum results as a major victory for the British people. Enhedslisten said that the referendum results should pave the way for a similar vote in Denmark, and the far-left party called for a Danish referendum within a year. She suggested holding a referendum on Denmark’s Constitution Day on June 5th, 2017

But Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who called the referendum results “very sad […] for Europe and Denmark”, ruled out holding a referendum. “We belong to the EU and I am not operating on [the belief] that we should have a referendum on that basic question,” Rasmussen said at a Friday morning press conference. 

This sets up a potential battle with the Danish People’s Party, Rasmussen’s largest support party in parliament. DF has previously said that if Brexit becomes reality, Denmark should hold its own EU referendum after the United Kingdom has formally negotiated a post-exit agreement with the union. 

I hear that there are elements in France unhappy with the current regime; also in the Netherlands, even within Germany. 

We must also be magnanimous towards the 14 million residents of the UK who voted to remain in the EU. Notwithstanding that many supporters of the Remain campaign used vile language, obscene gestures and smeared us as racists we must behave better, because we are better. But it is a worry that so many people either do not regard British sovereignty as their precious birthright, or are so careless of it that they are willing to sell it for a mess of pottage. Or as I heard one Remain enthusiast give as a reason, cheap mobile phone roaming rights while on holiday.

Something deep and worrying is wrong with our society that needs addressing and it could take more than one generation to put right. The malign influence of Common Purpose goes very deep indeed. 

I am not the only person to think of GK Chesterton’s poem The Secret People today. It’s longer than I remembered, but that will not frighten our readers if I reproduce it here in full. 

The last two verses are almost as prescient as the essays of George Orwell. 

Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.
There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.

The fine French kings came over in a flutter of flags and dames.
We liked their smiles and battles, but we never could say their names.
The blood ran red to Bosworth and the high French lords went down;
There was naught but a naked people under a naked crown.
And the eyes of the King’s Servants turned terribly every way,
And the gold of the King’s Servants rose higher every day.
They burnt the homes of the shaven men, that had been quaint and kind,
Till there was no bed in a monk’s house, nor food that man could find.
The inns of God where no man paid, that were the wall of the weak.
The King’s Servants ate them all. And still we did not speak.

And the face of the King’s Servants grew greater than the King:
He tricked them, and they trapped him, and stood round him in a ring.
The new grave lords closed round him, that had eaten the abbey’s fruits,
And the men of the new religion, with their bibles in their boots,
We saw their shoulders moving, to menace or discuss,
And some were pure and some were vile; but none took heed of us.
We saw the King as they killed him, and his face was proud and pale;
And a few men talked of freedom, while England talked of ale.

A war that we understood not came over the world and woke
Americans, Frenchmen, Irish; but we knew not the things they spoke.
They talked about rights and nature and peace and the people’s reign:
And the squires, our masters, bade us fight; and scorned us never again.
Weak if we be for ever, could none condemn us then;
Men called us serfs and drudges; men knew that we were men.
In foam and flame at Trafalgar, on Albuera plains,
We did and died like lions, to keep ourselves in chains,
We lay in living ruins; firing and fearing not
The strange fierce face of the Frenchmen who knew for what they fought,
And the man who seemed to be more than a man we strained against and broke;
And we broke our own rights with him. And still we never spoke.

Our patch of glory ended; we never heard guns again.
But the squire seemed struck in the saddle; he was foolish, as if in pain,
He leaned on a staggering lawyer, he clutched a cringing Jew,
He was stricken; it may be, after all, he was stricken at Waterloo.
Or perhaps the shades of the shaven men, whose spoil is in his house,
Come back in shining shapes at last to spoil his last carouse:
We only know the last sad squires rode slowly towards the sea,
And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger or honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evening; and they know no songs.

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

7 Responses

  1. Being magnanimous in victory is to be applauded, though I can't see how one could be otherwise.
    I assume that  a  Pol Pot type reactionary against graduates and the  A and B social classes, who tended, towards remain, is not on the cards. Nor a reaction of the 'elite' against the 'workers'. For the most part the 'elite' will not suffer too much from any economic consequences.
    But it is worrying that polls showed an age divide, with younger voters wanting remain and older voters wanting out. The younger generation may feel aggrieved by the outcome. One hopes they are likewise magnanimous in defeat.
    PS – I am 50,  apparently social class A, consider myself well- off, and voted leave, despite concern my over the economic fall out.
  2. The other worrying divide is the English  / Welsh and Scottish / Northern Irish one. A challenge for any new PM will be to preserve the Umion (despite why one may feel about the SNP). 

  3. The Leave victory is a heartening sign that the old spirit of independence and fortitude is still alive in Britain.  The birthright of freedom, so hard-won over generations far less privileged than the current one, came close to being squandered.  The pressures caused by the trend toward global government, multiculturalism, and diversity have taken a toll on the British identity.  Add to that the denigration of the British in history (think of the smears related to colonialism and imperialism – usually levelled mainly against this small island nation while ignoring the depredations of other world powers, both current and historical) and the native Brit almost became a pariah in his or her own land. 

    The Scottish leaning towards Remain is puzzling.  Where are the famed Scottish traits of independence and self-reliance? Has the national character been so transformed by decades of the nanny-state? If so, what accounts for the strong Leave vote in both England and Wales? One reason might be because the English and Welsh have been given a stronger dose of the multicultural medicine. 

    Congratulations, Esmerelda, on a fine victory for your country.

  4. Me again. England and Wales have closer historical ties. Scotland has had close ties with France. Possibly an explanation there.

  5. I, too, was thinking of the exact same Chesterton poem; and like Esmerelda, I think the part of that poem that matters, is that which is comprised by the final two stanzas.  Eerily prophetic (as was also Chesterton's novel "The Flying Inn", written in 1915, which envisaged an England that was being Islamised by stealth, one sneaky sharia-like regulation at a time; and a verse of his hymn "O God of Earth and Altar" which pleads – "From all that terror teaches/ from lies of tongue and pen/ from all the easy speeches/ that comfort cruel men// From sale and profanation/ of honour and the sword/ from sleep, and from damnation/ deliver us, good Lord!).

    I would also mention Jacques Ellul, who once trenchantly observed that it was the intellectuals, not the plebs, who are most susceptible to propaganda; it is quite possible that many of those who voted 'leave' are a vindication of Ellul's insight.  Chesterton, like Ellul, had no truck with those who like to look down their noses at the common man.  

    But to get back to Chesterton. This vote to leave the EU is of a piece with, I think, the rise of Trump in the USA.  Often and often, in forums frequented by the Islamosavvy, I have heard people expressing despair and defeatism, whether about mainland Europe, or some part thereof, or about the UK, or for that matter, the USA.  And I have often referred them to Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man". Two chapters – 1/ The War of the Gods and the Demons (his account of Rome vs Carthage) 2/ The Five Deaths of the Faith.  

    So, to go with Esmerelda's Chesterton poem, here is another excellent and I hope prescient passage, to be recited in the teeth of the fatalists.  

    "The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.

    "And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet."

    "The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation.

    "The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely.

    "They then go and do something else.

    That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

    "For human beings, being children, have the childish wilfulness and the childish secrecy.

    "And they never have from the beginning of the world done what the wise men have seen to be inevitable.

    "They stoned the false prophets, it is said; but they could have stoned true prophets with a greater and juster enjoyment.

    "Individually, men may present a more or less rational appearance, eating, sleeping, and scheming.

    "But humanity as a whole is changeful, mystical, fickle, delightful. Men are men, but Man is a woman…”.

    "But in the beginning of the twentieth century the game of Cheat the Prophet was made far more difficult than it had ever been before. The reason was, that there were so many prophets and so many prophecies, that it was difficult to elude all their ingenuities. When a man did something free and frantic and entirely his own, a horrible thought struck him afterwards; it might have been predicted. Whenever a duke climbed a lamp-post, when a dean got drunk, he could not be really happy, he could not be certain that he was not fulfilling some prophecy. In the beginning of the twentieth century you could not see the ground for clever men.

    "They were so common that a stupid man was quite exceptional, and when they found him, they followed him in crowds down the street and treasured him up and gave him some high post in the State.

    "And all these clever men were at work giving accounts of what would happen in the next age, all quite clear, all quite keen-sighted and ruthless, and all quite different.

    "And it seemed that the good old game of hoodwinking your ancestors could not really be managed this time, because the ancestors neglected meat and sleep and practical politics, so that they might meditate day and night on what their descendants would be likely to do.

    "But the way the prophets of the twentieth century went to work was this. They took something or other that was certainly going on in their time, and then said that it would go on more and more until something extraordinary happened. And very often they added that in some odd place that extraordinary thing had happened, and that it showed the signs of the times….”.

    "All these clever men were prophesying with every variety of ingenuity what would happen soon, and they all did it in the same way, by taking something they saw "going strong," as the saying is, and carrying it as far as ever their imagination could stretch. This, they said, was the true and simple way of anticipating the future…

    :And it did certainly appear that the prophets had put the people (engaged in the old game of Cheat the Prophet) in a quite unprecedented difficulty. It seemed really hard to do anything without fulfilling some of their prophecies.

    "But there was, nevertheless, in the eyes of labourers in the streets, of peasants in the fields, of sailors and children, and especially women, a strange look that kept the wise men in a perfect fever of doubt. They could not fathom the motionless mirth in their eyes. They still had something up their sleeve; they were still playing the game of Cheat the Prophet….”. – from "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" (which is, appropriately enough for the present day, a fantastical meditation on locality, on local loyalty, on patriotism).

    I just can't help wondering whether the great American unwashed, hot on the heels of this startling demonstration of "cheat the prophet" from the Island of the Mighty, is gearing itself up in turn to play a truly dramatic round of… shall we say… "trump the 'Prophet'"??

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