Saturday, July 23, 2016

After the "Leave" vote - Matthew Parris on finding a way forward

As I said at the start of the previous post, the referendum has happened. Leave won. However much  48% of us regret that, we have to accept the reality of it and find a way to move forward.

I spent a day or so in the "Denial" and several weeks in the "Anger" phases of my response, but that cannot last and we have to come back together as a country and find a constructive way forward.

Journalist and former MP Matthew Parris appears to be emerging from a much deeper phase of anger than I did, writing at one point that for the first time in his life he felt ashamed to be British.

I didn't have that reaction, and I see the attitude represented by the phrase in the third paragraphs of the article below "We think the voters got it wrong" as an attractive but dangerous temptation to be resisted, not as a position I would defend. (If you read the article in context, I think it is pretty clear that this is also how Matthew Parris intended his words to be taken.)

But as I just inferred, Matthew is now emerging from his denial and anger stage.

Not everyone will agree with everything he wrote in his Times article, "The Remainer refuseniks must snap out of it," indeed I don't agree with every word of it myself, but he makes some very salient points about the need to resist the temptation to be pleased when things go wrong for our country because you can say "I told you so" and about the need to support Theresa May in finding ways to make Brexit a reality which work successfully for Britain.

Here are some extracts from the article.

"Revanchist is a word used to describe a movement to take back lost territory or standing and to reassert the old order. There is today a strong revanchist undercurrent running among millions of us who voted to remain part of the European Union. Like many, I have been tempted by it.

We sense that Leave gained its winning edge by untruths, and by a disreputable appeal to a dislike of immigrants that came close to racism. We suspect that the best terms for a Brexit that our government can get may fall far short of what Leave voters thought they were promised. We wonder whether, once the shape of a likely deal becomes apparent, people should be asked again. We nurse a vague hope that parliament may come to a similar view.

Let’s spit it out. We think the voters got it wrong last month, and dream of giving them another chance to get it right.

Ever since the small hours of June 24 I’ve wrestled with this temptation. I’ve teetered on the brink of succumbing and joining the Remainer refuseniks. I have felt ashamed to be British, and a panicky sense of wanting to stop this happening, somehow — anyhow. I’ve received indirect approaches from more than one putative grouping with hopes of doing the same. Known and longstanding members of the Conservative Party, such as I, would be useful to any such movement, where Labour and Lib Dem refuseniks are two-a-penny."

"I think Tory former Remainers should — and I believe most will — stick with Theresa May. She’s going to need us when the headbangers attack. Brexit means Brexit, says Mrs May; and she’s right. The people have decided. Now comes a difficult and painstaking negotiation."

"We Tory Remain voters have had a little moan, a big sulk and a quiet tear. But now we must snap out of it, or there’s a terrible danger of slipping into a sort of Tsarist Russian émigré state of mind, dining with each other, dreaming of a return and taking secret pleasure in any setback our country may suffer.

I’m resolved not to scour each morning’s papers for news of a fall in sterling, or greet reports of businesses leaving Britain with a grimly satisfied “I told you so”. It’s corrosive. Real livelihoods, real people are at stake and we must wish always for the best. There’s a decent chance that after a few bumps along the way our economy will be fine. With heart as well as head we must wish only for this.

It’s my clear reading of the Conservative Party in the country, and of the mood of most of my former colleagues in the Commons, that Mrs May is thought to have turned out a strong choice for leader at a difficult time. Even among those Remain supporters who’ve had doubts about her there’s an overwhelming feeling she must be given a fair wind.

There is no appetite for troublemaking among what you might call Tory moderates, and though I myself long for a realignment at the centre of British politics, the lemons don’t line up this summer. Just when Labour looks ready to fall apart the Tories feel ready to hold together. Come-hithers from cross-party Remain revanchists will fall mostly on deaf ears.

But there’s a dark corner in that sunny picture. The headbangers on the Europhobic right are suspicious."

"Brexit means we leave the EU. It does not mean we turn sharply right in our attitudes to workers’ rights. It does not mean we may not choose to co-operate on a wide range of things, from fisheries to environmental protection to trading standards. It does not mean we quit the European Convention on Human Rights.

It need not even mean we’re unable to make special arrangements with our former partners (as we did with Ireland 94 years ago) on migration. Perhaps a compromise may be found, starting from the acceptance by our continental allies of what they so foolishly refused to consider before the referendum: that Britain cannot accept unlimited immigration.

We for our part may have to concede that unhindered access to the single market must involve common standards that we may have to accept, without the say we used to have in framing them.

It’s surely do-able but a delicate and tricky business, with the possibility of failure to get agreement always overhanging. That could result in our departure on no terms at all."

"Look at it this way, fellow Remainers: even if you think a second referendum possible, even if you believe a mood to think again may in time begin to run, this cannot be led by Remain voters railing against the popular will. It would have to come from Leave voters examining what’s on offer and thinking again.

So leave the nation to reflect. Leave Mrs May to construct the best deal available. Do nothing to undermine her. Give her all the help we can. Counsel the compromise she may need to recommend. And if she succeeds, as with skill and luck she might, let’s own, with her, a new, calm, businesslike way of living with the EU. "

You can read the whole article here.

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