In a remarkable twist on the whole Brexit debacle, it was noted by many commentators that the Queen wore a blue hat with yellow stars to deliver her speech at the state opening of parliament on 21st June. This was not quite the same EU beret that Bath for Europe’s own Maggie Turner has created as the symbol of the hope for the anti-Brexit movement. But whatever Her Majesty’s motives were, the significance of the symbolism offered by this momentous break from usual protocol should not pass without comment.
Who would have guessed only two months ago that we would be here? I turned 50 years old on 17th April. On 18th April, the world changed. Mrs May called a cynical, tactical snap general election. She explicitly stated the single purpose: to strengthen her hand in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. She claimed the country was behind her and she needed to strengthen her majority so that parliament would support her vision of hard Brexit. All reasonable commentators agreed that the Conservatives were riding so high in the polls that victory for Mrs May was almost inevitable.
In fact, by 18th April ‘the establishment’ — in the form of the BBC, and one assumed the monarchy, seemed to be encouraging us to accept a new reality: Article 50 had been triggered, hard Brexit was happening, it would be a tough few years, but we all needed to do our patriotic duty and get behind our government’s attempt to negotiate the best possible deal. I don’t usually knock the establishment, or the lack of a British constitution and our reliance on historical precedent. It seems to me, as a non-expert, that the establishment acts as a gentle stabilising influence in society, a way of preserving some of the less controversial elements of the status quo. It is notable for example that the leave sides in both the Scottish independence and EU referenda complained of BBC bias towards the remain option. One could argue that bias towards the status quo is almost what the BBC exists for. However, those of us who have been appalled by the rise of xenophobia and the lack of any perceived economic or social benefit from Brexit were extremely angry at this April 2017 version of the status quo.
How the world has changed. There is no longer any clear consensus for Brexit in parliament and certainly not the hard Brexit being proposed by Mrs May and her team. There is simply no mandate. The nation would seem to be in something of a socio-political vacuum. A crossroads.
In short, everything is now to play for again. Those who have been politely saying and in some cases rather rudely shouting that “Brexit is bonkers” have new hope. It is time to redouble our efforts. We must keep on explaining, arguing, persuading until our country sees sense again. In my view, Brexit and the xenophobic element of society that it represents are the biggest threat to our country since World War II. I would therefore argue it is our patriotic duty to do all we can to make avoidance of any form of Brexit whatsoever become the ‘establishment’ status-quo view again….
…and it seems we might even have supporters in high places.
Alan R. Champneys