In a couple of days’ time, full customs controls on trade in and out of the EU will take effect. The consequence is likely to be that imports and exports will become, at the very least, even more difficult.
This, I suspect, is why Lord Frost really resigned, rather than any opposition to further Covid restrictions. He will have known what was coming, and that he would inevitably get some of the blame.
Liz Truss took on the job of leading the negotiations with the EU. Some suggested this was a hospital pass, handing over to one of the leading contenders to replace Johnson an impossible task. I suspect she wanted the job because to fail would bolster her leadership credentials with the extremists on the Tory backbenches. She could blame the EU for the failure to reach a deal acceptable to them. Look what Brussels has done to us now.
We will see. But those customs changes have at least the potential to create further shortages in the shops, as basic commodities fail to make it across the Channel. Meanwhile, exports from the UK could decline rapidly.
At that stage it becomes obvious to almost all that Brexit has diminished our economy, our industrial base and our quality of life. How will the Brexit loyalists react?
I used to think Brexit resembled a cult, requiring the absolute belief that it would lead to those “sunlit uplands”. It could not fail because the Dear Leader is never wrong. Accepting, as many have, that we were sold a very bad idea as the way to a prosperous future, that we were lied to persistently to bring Brexit about, may now be obvious to most.
But to the cult’s true adherents, it requires a psychological shift that is too hard for them to make.
Government using the Soviet playbook
I now begin to think that Brexit more closely resembles life in the old Soviet Union, in three significant ways. One, the facts, as set out by the authorities, are never wrong. Tractor production is up 50 percent. The fact that there are no tractors to be had anywhere is irrelevant.
So while that majority now accept it was a damaging idea, the hardline Brexiters do not. Brexit is going well. Tractor production is up 50 percent…
Second, when the old Soviet Union failed, supporters of Communism said, it was never a proper communist state. Too diluted with capitalist values. We must try again. The fact that Communism failed everywhere is again an irrelevance.
So Brexiters say, it is not a proper Brexit. The deal, as negotiated, was not the deal we wanted. The fact that we, that is, the Conservative hardliners, voted for it is an irrelevance.
The third is the need, when things are failing to the extent that no one rational can believe they are going well, to find someone to blame. In the old Soviet Union there were shadowy “saboteurs” lurking in the background. That word has returned to political discourse. In April 2017, when Theresa May called a snap election, the Daily Mail’s headline was “Crush The Saboteurs”. And remember “Enemies Of The People”?
This is the exact language that was used in Soviet Russia to attack those who opposed Communism. You can expect to see a lot more of this in coming months, as the problems caused by Brexit mount.
The narrative is one of Betrayal and Blame. We were betrayed by someone – the Remainers? The EU which failed to accept our demands? (Why should they? We’re not on the same side anymore.)
Someone must then be found to blame for the failings of Brexit. If the situation gets really bad, with looming shortages and, the other elephant in the room, rising energy prices, things could turn really nasty. People will be significantly poorer, and scapegoats will be needed.
It is easy to see how this narrative will play out. This next dates from more than three years ago but is being circulated again. A former deputy leader of Ukip who defected to the Conservatives wants “extreme EU loyalty” to be seen as equivalent to treason.
“Hostile EU narrative”
Treason no longer attracts the death penalty but could potentially do so until as recently as 1998, 33 years after it was abolished for other crimes. You can get life imprisonment. You can see the logic here. The EU is a hostile political entity, acting against the interests of the British state. And you are aiding and abetting it.
I do not think I need to fear a knock on the door in five years’ time, and to be told, those articles you wrote for East Anglia Bylines. You have to come with us now.
But I do think it indicates the extreme positions some Brexiters are capable of adopting if the true consequences of what we as a country voted for in 2016 come about. Betrayal and Blame.