Chair's message to members - 5 November 2018
Dear Member or Supporter
If only one of them were Brexit! But we can't. And we shouldn't because, as Edmund Burke said: "Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation and foresight can build up in a hundred years".
Let's think what we should ignore.
No deal is just a distraction from a bad deal
Some hold that the intractable nature of the Irish backstop means that no-deal becomes more likely. Maybe. It would be brave to rule anything out. But almost no-one wants no-deal. Not Theresa May - who has a sense of responsibility; not Labour, not the Republic, not the EU. Only the Brexiter fringe want it.
So what has been the purpose of no-deal in Theresa May's semiotics? Initially it was a mix of the genuine cack-handedness of her approach to negotiations and the need to signal to Brexit ultras that she was on their side. More recently it has served to frighten the children. Nervous Conservatives and especially Labour MPs with large Leave-votes in their constituencies have had no-deal waved before them as encouragement to support her deal, whatever it turns out to be.
Any MP tempted to meet their constituents' wishes in that way should make their support conditional on a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain (People's Vote). That would give their constituents two presents: a Brexit (even if not the one they had sought or been promised) and the chance to rate the best actually available Brexit against Remain and take the Final Say away from Theresa May.
But the main purpose of no-deal is to distract us from just how bad the deal is. The "deal dividend" (relative to no-deal) conceals that any Brexit is worse than Remain. Even if the deal involves a Customs Union of some sort there would still be a real rupture with the EU. The EU is a regulatory magnet, so we will be following their rules word for word while claiming that to be our sovereign choice. More importantly, the loss of freedom of movement and the rise of nationalism would cut us off from our neighbours and make Britain and Europe a darker place.
As campaigners we should ignore no-deal, no matter how tempting it is to highlight queues and lorry parks, stockpiling and cancellations. Because we risk a collective national sense of relief at any deal. So we need to focus on the deal and how bad it is; and why it is worth staying in the EU.
Terms of transition are not worth thinking about
We should also not talk about the transition period. Of course it's important for business and individuals. But any discussion of it risks misleading people as to when Brexit happens. The more the transition sounds alright ("Norway for now") the bigger the risk that people focus on the short term and either ignore what happens at the end or believe fantasies like that we will stay for ever in a transitional regime or somehow slide easily back into the EU.
Transition is about the initial post-Brexit relationship with the EU. If Brexit happens, we would have left on 29 March 2019.
Re-joining after that date, even in the transition period, means going through the whole accession process. We would have to negotiate afresh the rebate and opt-outs - that would be an uphill negotiation. Nor will the public mood be for re-entry any time soon: who would want another massive upheaval? people would wish to give Brexit a go; the sense of humiliation at obvious failure would be too great.
We must not let the idea take root that Brexit does not happen until the end of the transition period, that the fight can be left until later.
The time to fight Brexit is now. The Brexit to fight is the proposed deal.
ONE SUBJECT TO REMEMBER
Friday this week marks a key date in European history. On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall was opened. That followed a series of brave movements for freedom across the Soviet prison that was Central and Eastern Europe, including: Solidarnosc in Poland, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig and other cities in the German Democratic Republic.
The fall of the wall was followed by the return of most of Central and Eastern Europe to modern European civilisation, with the building by the people of those countries of civil societies free from domestic repression and Russian domination, the growth of prosperity through markets. The EU played a large part in that achievement - with the UK a major advocate of enlargement.
On that date, we should recall the success of the EU and remind ourselves of what the European Project is. It is not just a customs union or a single market, important though those are. It is a peace, freedom and democracy project that brings the peoples of Europe closer together. That unity in diversity is what we wish to pass on to future generations.
This e-mail sets out the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of London4Europe.
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