IN A fascinating discussion with Nigel Farage, the conservative intellectual Douglas Murray nails the pathetic spinelessness of our current administration, and succinctly puts what this ‘Conservative’ government should have said in the face of Black Lives Matter’s iconoclasm (see it here, from 21:14).
‘Yes, yes, we care about our precious monuments. They are not precious little monuments. These are our holiest places and we make no apology for it.’
Indeed. Symbols matter, and when it comes to Brexit, no symbol is more totemic than the return of our fishing waters to our sovereign control. Diehard Remainers, knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, find this inexplicable, given fishing’s relatively small economic contribution. Culturally, however, it has enormous value, being highly symbolic of our rebirth as a great maritime trading nation.
The great prize of Brexit was not just about economic trade deals, nor even perhaps about regaining national sovereignty, but about the chance for cultural restoration, a way for Britain to escape a deep malaise that goes way beyond the issue of the European Union and affects the entire Western world. Although it is tempting to think that with the iconoclasm, witch-hunting intolerance and end-times hysteria of Woke politics we are reaching its nadir, that may well be wishful thinking. Post-Brexit Britain was not meant to be like this. As Farage says in the discussion with Murray, Middle England is now deeply worried and knows the times are becoming critical. The opinion polls may not show much evidence of it yet, but you sense that faith in this government and the entire political class – who were given a stay of execution when we finally left the EU last year – is once again rapidly leaking away.
Even those of us who despise the Tories are shocked by the extent to which they have fluffed the culture war, but then a party based on principle-free opportunism has never really understood the importance of cultural issues. What they do understand very well, however, is an electoral threat, which is why hitherto, to the surprise of many, this government has seemingly stuck to its ground in the Brexit negotiations.
However, they are not the only ones to understand electoral threats. The tone from M Barnier on the issue of fishing rights is becoming ever more strident. He is being joined in this by various EU member states, in particular France, which has recently branded Britain’s stance as ‘unrealistic’. The EU plainly isn’t going to budge on this issue, devastating as it would be for the fishing economies of many continental states while they are still reeling, as we are, from the effects of the ‘Wu-Flu’ pandemic.
That word ‘unrealistic’ should give us pause for thought: assuming our government refuses to give way on fishing rights (and politically it is hard to see how it could) what if, come January 1 2021, the French simply refuse to respect the sovereign integrity of British waters? Acting decisively in their own national interest, whether within the rule of law or not, is something the French have never been shy of. Viewing the weakness of the Johnson government from across the Channel, a French government outraged by a no-deal Brexit may well encourage, or at the very least neither condemn nor curtail, mass incursions of French vessels into British waters. The EU, still angry at Britain’s decision to leave, and always wanting to discourage others from following our lead, would no doubt relish our humiliation.
And what a humiliation it would be! Brexit would have been achieved de jure but not de facto, and Britain exposed as a paper tiger. We have no real way of enforcing the sovereignty of our coastal waters; a navy that once ruled the oceans wouldn’t be able to enforce the law even in its own back yard.
Following on from the Channel migrant crisis and the widespread assault on our heritage, surely such an outcome would be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Middle England’s patience has been sorely tried by the ineptitude of the Johnson government, the cowardice of its institutions and before that the betrayal of the political and media class over Brexit over the past four years.
Nigel Farage would surely seize his chance: the Tories’ currently weird levitation in the polls is merely a function of Labour’s being even less palatable and so much (misplaced) hope being put on the figure of Boris Johnson as a leader. A Brexit Party, rebranded as Reform, would surely find many takers, not least in the Red Wall. There would be no going back. It would be over for Johnson, and perhaps for the Tories.