On June 23, 2016, 52 per cent of Britons who participated in the Referendum voted to leave the European Union. About 70 per cent of MPs purporting to represent them favoured remaining in it.
On June 8, 2017, approximately 85 per cent of General Election votes cast went to parties whose manifestos and candidates pledged to respect and implement the Referendum result. Many of those pledges were, in hindsight, self-evidently made dishonestly.
The passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill succeeded via mostly knife-edge votes, even with a Remain-dominated Government patently half-hearted about Brexit making concession after concession to anti-Brexit Leftists, ‘liberals’ and ‘Conservative’ Remainers alike, merely to avoid defeat.
Include the mostly Tory and a few Labour MPs who voted Remain but grudgingly accept the Referendum result, and it’s obvious that, viscerally, a majority of the political class would prefer to find a way of ensuring Britain either stays in the EU or ‘exits’ largely in name only.
The same attitude is discernible elsewhere within what we’re accustomed to calling the Metropolitan ‘liberal’ elite but what Martin Durkin, maker of Brexit: The Movie, labels the New-Class Establishment.
For the past two years much of the media has gleefully reported, even embellished, every claim, however implausible or parti pris, that leaving the EU will bring about economic and societal catastrophe, while justifying the EU’s negotiating intransigence and (though not without good cause, but for the wrong reasons) criticising Britain’s approach.
The Academy, 80 per cent in favour of Remain, has continued to suggest the imminent demise of cross-border tertiary education. The cultural establishment paints a picture of impending artistic desertification. One wonders how the 150-odd countries, including most of the G20 economies, which aren’t in the EU but manage to trade quite succesfully with its member states, manage to survive at all.
Now remember what happened to the most prominent of those dire pre-Referendum economic predictions. Goldman Sachs forecast a recession by early 2017, Credit Suisse a 1 per cent fall in GDP, and Nomura a 1. 3 per cent fall. Instead, economic growth accelerated.
The Treasury – architect, co-ordinator and centrepiece of George Osborne’s Project Fear – predicted the loss of half a million jobs. Instead more than a million have been created, and unemployment is down to a 43-year low. Overvalued anyway in the run-up to the Referendum, the pound rebounded from its immediate post-Brexit slide to its former level.
Next, recall the condition of the EU itself: Brexit is almost the least of its structural flaws. Economically, despite its expansion from six to 27 member states, its shares of both world trade and GDP are declining, and most future global growth is overwhelmingly expected to come from emergent non-EU economies.
Politically, the EU is beset with problems that pose a direct, almost existential, threat to its integrationist philosophy. The amount of central-bank-held euro-debt is deemed unsustainable. Its Mediterranean migrant crisis remains intractable and unsolved, with Italy now taking matters into its own hands.
In country after country, voters are electing openly anti-EU parties , exasperated at how its supranationalist anti-democracy ignores or dismisses their legitimate concerns about unemployment and economic imbalances attributable to the euro, the links between uncontrolled mass immigration, crime, security, and Islamist terrorism, and issues of culture and identity. It responds largely by hectoring and bullying.
Finally – and this ought to be painfully obvious by now, even to the most partisan Remain-voting, Brexit-regretting EU-phile – despite its multi-fronted crises, Brussels has zero interest in negotiating, in good faith, a mutually-beneficial separation settlement, as a precursor to a comprehensive agreement on the future relationship between itself and a former member which, despite withdrawal, wishes to continue a close but non-political arm’s-length relationship with it.
The EU’s aim, explicitly stated, is to punish Britain, even at the cost of inflicting damage on itself or its member states, for having the audacity to abandon the Project, to deter others from following a similar path.
And yet, faced with all this evidence, a majority of the ‘liberal’ elite would rejoice should the democratic will be overthrown and Brexit either not happen at all, or happen only cosmetically, or be so mishandled as to bring about a re-joining in a few years, even on punitive terms.
So why are the ‘liberal’ elite so instinctively EU-phile?
Once, I thought that EU devotees, though wrong, at least had an honourable viewpoint, in that they felt the economic, trade and employment benefits of membership outweighed its democratic deficit. I gradually came to the conclusion, however, that for many their EU-philia was not despite its democratic deficit, but because of it.
The past two years have strengthened that conviction. My theory, for what it’s worth, is that their EU-philia, despite their protestations to the contrary, isn’t driven by concerns about the economy, trade and jobs, but by something deeper: an atavistic aversion to mass democracy itself.
First, it’s a convenient cultural signifier: a means of virtue-signalling, if you like, that they, unlike the unsophisticated and mostly non-metropolitan masses, are open, internationalist, cosmopolitan, ‘tolerant’ (ha!) and ‘liberal’ (ha!)
Secondly, it seems increasingly hard to deny that, for so many, the overriding attraction of EU membership is that it enables as much politics as possible to be made immune from the need for popular consent – to be put beyond the reach of the capricious domestic democratic process and the electorate whose views they not only do not share, but for whom they actively feel contempt.
If I’m right, then this has implications for the reform of our post-Brexit Parliament and legislature. To repatriate currently EU-decided politics to the United Kingdom, only to vest it in the same Parliament which more than 45 years ago eagerly gave it away, and in the custody of MPs approximately 70 per cent of whom hold a low opinion of the masses and, by extension, of mass democracy, especially when it delivers an outcome unwelcome to them, would be unthinkable, and a hollow victory indeed.