Brexit is a battle of two different political agendas, argues MARY HONEYBALL. Remainers are battling to save the soul of Britain.
Brexit is more than leaving the European Union – it’s the battle for the soul of Britain and ‘Super Saturday’ could not have provided a starker contrast about what is at stake.
On the one hand, an estimated one million peaceful protestors against Brexit, and in favour of a People’s Vote, made their views and their presence known across central London. Meanwhile, the House of Commons rang with passion on both sides, for and against membership of the EU.
Those who do not want to leave the EU wish Britain to continue moving towards equality of opportunity, protections for people at work including health and safety, statutory maternity leave and paid holidays together with effective action on climate change. It is a progressive mindset with the European social model at its core, which seeks fairness and balance together with international co-operation.
The Leavers have a very different views of the world. Their models are Donald Trump’s America and Singapore, as founded by Lee Kuan Yew – small state countries with a supposedly thriving entrepreneurial culture where the winner takes virtually everything. Countries which follow this path are inevitably divided according to income and along racial lines. They do little to protect their populations and spend the bare minimum on health and social welfare.
As we are only too aware, these two starkly different political agendas have polarised British politics. They have been disguised as a simple argument about whether you are for or against the EU.
Brexit is not only about Britain’s membership of the EU. Crucially, it is about how the British nation sees itself, the kind of country it wishes to be and the way in which it views itself in relation to other countries, particularly the big power blocs of the United States, India and China.
Brexit is not and never has been about being a citizen of nowhere or a citizen of somewhere, or even a have or a have-not. Brexit is about whether Britain maintains its EU membership thereby signing up to the European model, believing in a better future for all where health and welfare are prioritised and people have rights and benefits at work. The alternative is all that goes, with only lightly regulated capitalism left – low wages, precarious working conditions and little regulation for those who run the system.
Yet it is more than just who runs the country and the way they do it. If Britain were to leave the European Union, it would soon become clear that the country would have to make trade and diplomatic alliances elsewhere. The only alternative to the EU is the United States. A UK-USA free trade deal has been talked about at length. This would undoubtedly mean the USA would make strong and speedy inroads into the British market to the extent that the American pharmaceutical companies would undermine the National Health Service.
It is a clear choice between safety with Europe, together with a strong role in its collective foreign policy, compared to a takeover by the USA. The American way has powerful forces on its side. The Daily Mail and the Daily Express are just two of its leading proponents. They are clear and forthright, making their case forcefully and continuously.
The pro-Europeans do not have such strong and consistent voices putting the political, social and economic case for EU membership. We must develop our message and make it as strong as the millions of people who support us. We must ensure that Saturday’s marchers did not protest in vain.