The Brexit debate that has literally consumed us for over 3 years is usually portrayed as one between ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’, and polls suggest that there has been surprisingly little shift between the two camps created by the 2016 EU Referendum.
If there has been a change in attitude, it is the growth of widespread weariness with the debate and all the uncertainty and distress that it has fuelled. Most people from either camp or none would now just like to see the whole shebang brought to a quick end.
There is a big risk that lots of voters could be duped into thinking that the “No-Deal” solution, sought by Johnson and his far-right friends, will bring a welcome end to the Brexit process. Perhaps this misunderstanding is because the very term “No-Deal” has an air of finality.
The reality is that walking off the end of the “No Deal” plank would actually signal the start of a very long period fraught with much greater risk and uncertainty than anything that we have had to endure during these 3 years. Like an earthquake, “No-Deal” would cause an instantaneous destruction of the institutional fabric which has enabled us to cooperate successfully in so many fields of activity with our neighbours. If you have lived through an earthquake, you will know how extraordinarily difficult and how slow it is to pick up the pieces and resume a normal life.
For a Prime Minister to deliberately trigger such an earthquake while being fully aware of the havoc it would cause is the height of irresponsibility. He seems to want to throw us out of the frying pan into the fire and couldn’t care less about how much hurt it will cause to British citizens.
Any move to suggest to those of us who yearn for normality that “No-Deal” would close the painful Brexit chapter is downright dishonest.
We and our MPs need to face up to the truth – a rare commodity these days – that any form of Brexit, whether “No Deal” or “soft”, would take years to sort out and would leave us in seemingly endless limbo.
The only means through which we can return to a “normal” and reasonably predictable life is to stay in the European Union. This requires no negotiations and comes automatically when requested by our Government as long as it is made while we are still members.
Like all institutions the EU has merits and warts, but on balance it must be quite benign as we have never, during over 40 years of “marriage”, been drawn into a serious dispute about our terms of cohabitation.
Divorces are often triggered by trivia. Should we really allow Boris’ conjured up images of bendy bananas, frozen kippers and overpaid bureaucrats in Brussels to provide a valid motive for slamming the door in the face of our neighbours? Is there any logic for withdrawing from the best free trade deal in the world or for walking away from well-tested agreements on dealing with shared problems – food safety, animal health, medicines, human disease control and prevention, safe travel, mobile phone costs, international crime, security and so on?
We pride ourselves over our nation’s great achievements but need to admit that our success has always come from our ability to forge alliances with other nations. Our engagement with our former enemies in the European project and the trust that this has nurtured, has allowed my wife and me to enjoy over 70 years of peace. Our parents lived through two horrific wars of European origin. We now fear that, if our country ceases to be responsibly engaged in Europe, this would increase the risk that our children and grandchildren could find themselves – probably for trivial motives – drawn into fresh international conflicts.