ON my way home from work the other day I saw two men standing in the middle of a traffic island holding a ‘Leave Means Leave’ banner, like soldiers in the smouldering remains of the Brexit battlefield still valiantly clinging to their country’s colours. I suddenly found myself struck by an overwhelming feeling of sadness: sadness that our country is so divided and sadness that our politicians have failed these men. There seemed to be a collective exhaustion and apathy from the people driving past the lone banner-men. No one hooted either to cheer or jeer these ghosts from 2016 – a time when people still believed that the politicians who claimed to represent them would implement what they voted for.
Before the referendum we heard from so many pundits who said Brexit would never happen, because the government and the EU would not allow it to. While I could see many examples of where this had already happened, with other countries being made to vote again until they got the ‘right’ answer, I felt confident that in the country of Magna Carta this would not be the case. How wrong I was.
For all the analysis and debate, the reason Brexit hasn’t happened is very simple. It is because the political class and, unfortunately, a large percentage of the population do not want it to. We can dress it up as much as we like, but at the end of the day the losers of the referendum cannot accept that they lost. They do not like having their authority challenged – it goes against every fibre of their being and more than 40 years of having things their own way. And despite their feeble attempts to placate the Brexiteers, they still think of them as small-minded, xenophobic and even outright racist. Champagne socialists who would usually give lip service to championing the cause of the little man, or at least the ‘people against the system’, weren’t prepared for it to become a reality. It was all well and good when they were lambasting the Tories, or bemoaning austerity, but when the people genuinely exercised their democratic voice, it all became a bit too real. Really? We’re going to have to do what people who are proud to be British (heave) and drink in Wetherspoons (retch) are telling us to do? No, no, no, this can’t be right, something has gone drastically wrong.
Maybe the fate of Brexit will be death by a thousand delays, but we must not give up. If people are unable to decide their own future they effectively live under a tyranny. It may be benign, but it is still a tyranny. So screw your courage to the sticking place, pick up a banner and stand a post. I’ll see you on the traffic island.