The New European opinion: The fightback has begun
PUBLISHED: 11:14 14 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:32 14 October 2016
Look who's rattled now! Matt Kelly calls out the lies and hyperbole of the Brexit big names
The opening sentence of David Davis’ statement to the House of Commons this week contained three falsehoods. Not bad for a sentence just 14 words long.
“The mandate for Britain to leave the European Union is clear, overwhelming, and unarguable,” the Minister for Brexit told the country.
Falsehood 1: The mandate is NOT clear.
Nobody – least of all the government – has any clarity around the scope of the mandate. Certainly, not a single person in the UK voted to leave the single market – they couldn’t have, it wasn’t on the ballot paper.
Falsehood 2: It was, emphatically, NOT overwhelming.
In fact (dangerous to introduce facts into this debate, but bear with us) a study for The Economist this week revealed those who voted to Leave have a significantly stronger sense of remorse than the Remain camp. Whereas only 1% of Remainers regret their choice, 6% of Leavers do. This would have been enough to swing the vote, convincingly, to a Remain victory.
(Impossible not to wonder what the Daily Mail would be advising a losing Leave side. Would they be gracefully accepting the will of the “British public” or would they be “plotting to thwart it”?)
Falsehood 3: It’s certainly NOT unarguable.
This, Mr Davis, is one argument that is going to run and run.
The Prime Minister and her Three Brexiteers, Messrs Davis, Fox and Johnson have been acting in recent weeks as though June 23 gave them carte blanche to interpret Brexit in whatever way they saw fit.
Of course they cannot and there are now indications that even they realise it. The government could have simply struck off Labour’s demand for a debate on Brexit on Wednesday night.
But they didn’t. They couldn’t.
So much dissent is rising from within their own Tory ranks; quietly seething in the knowledge that the country will not trust the judgement of the charlatans and chancers that pushed the vote over the line.
The government is rattled. It’s not alone.
Britain’s right-wing press, which has vested so much effort, and for so long, in their insidious and hateful campaign against migration, are rattled too. “Whingeing. Contemptuous. Unpatriotic. Damn the Bremoaners and their plot to subvert the will of the British people,” spluttered the opinion column of the Daily Mail.
(It’s easy to tell when the Mail is rattled; the words get longer as the temper gets shorter.)
The Mail’s mini-me make-weights at the Daily Express were less poetic but more sinister. “Time to silence the EU exit whingers,” they incited across their front page splash.
Both papers, with ludicrous hyperbole, label the post-Referendum debate “unpatriotic” and “a subversion of democracy”.
But it’s they who are unpatriotic. It’s they who betray the values of a decent, tolerant Britain with their indecent, intolerant arrogance.
The Mail and Express are rattled.
And little wonder. They helped spread the pack of lies that took us into this mess – £350m for the NHS every week, millions of Turks heading our way, farewell to the British Army – and since Brexit the same papers have been telling a new pack of lies about a booming Britain.
But eventually the weight of truth intrudes on their alternative reality. Though it is fair to say no-one would have predicted a jar of Marmite would symbolise the batch of worrying economic indicators rearing up as concern of a Hard Brexit soars. And when petrol prices soar, when foreign holidays become unaffordable, when businesses up and down the country shed jobs because of the uncertainty this vote has inflicted on us... when the true costs of Brexit materialise, then it’s the Mail’s and Express’s readers who will be rattled.
Of course, their front page headlines are not merely opinion articles. They are open threats – promises of vengeance to any MPs who threaten to disrupt a rush to Hard Brexit.
Yet, thankfully, this week we’ve seen that there are plenty of politicians who are big enough and brave enough to stand up against them. Keir Starmer, Anna Soubry, Chuka Ummuna, David Lammy, Tim Farron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and many others from across all parties, are all defiant and determined to be discuss, to debate, to decide. We applaud them.
These MPs are NOT rattled.
Nor should they be.
They are fulfilling the single mandate that IS absolutely clear, overwhelming and unarguable – to represent their constituents’ interests in this, the mother of all representative democracies.
Matt Kelly, Editor