Sometimes Remainers are their own worst enemies. Categorising all those who voted against you as stupid and ignorant is complacent and is not a rebuttal of arguments in favour of leaving the EU. They fail to make their own case competently. They believe that remaining in the EU is so obviously the only thing worth considering that anyone who is against it must be ignorant and stupid.
Analysis of the referendum results suggests that those who voted for the UK to remain in the EU were predominant among those who have been educated to degree level and beyond and are reasonably comfortably off. Those who voted to leave include a high proportion who are not so highly educated and perhaps not so comfortably off. In a traditionally class-ridden society such as Britain’s it is easy to slip from such statistics to simplistic conclusions, such as believing that all those who voted to leave are thick. And from there it is but a baby-step to wallowing in the belief that Britain is heading for disaster; and yet doing nothing to understand what is happening and why.
The next small step, though we haven’t heard it loudly, yet, is to take issue with democracy because there will always be more uneducated than educated voters, (however the flexible term ‘educated’ is defined) so the uneducated (the ‘ignorant and stupid’) will always have the edge in any vote they are allowed.
To ignore all arguments that challenge the claims made by and for the EU makes Remainers vulnerable to being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of those who vote against them, as they were in the referendum and may be in any follow up, unless they take more care to understand the issues and attitudes involved. It is as if they have swallowed uncritically the puff and propaganda put out by the EU’s leaders.
In commentaries on economic and other matters, three things are often lumped together, as though the connection is obvious: Trump, Brexit and ‘populism’. It is never explained what these things have in common; perhaps readers are expected to assume that they all result from the stupid and ignorant wishes of an uneducated majority. We doubt that it is so simple. Perhaps it is more than coincidence that these three things are occurring at the same time, or in the same period; while coincidence is not a convincing explanation, writing them off as the result of ignorance and stupidity is not a better explanation. We need to look more closely at what there may be in common, if we want to deal effectively with the consequences.
One possibility that we are becoming aware of is the effectiveness of disruptive agencies using social media (or anti-social media) to disturb familiar attitudes and patterns of behaviour. This seems likely to have been a factor in Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency of the United States. And it is claimed that the same and related groups are now turning their
attention to the forthcoming elections in Europe, hoping to achieve similar disruptions. This may be the first stirrings of a movement against democracy. However, such media activities were not a noted factor in the EU referendum or the rise of populists in Europe, so we have to look behind this phenomenon to see what, if anything, it is riding on. And what, if anything, can be done about it.
We read that growing sections of many national populations are expressing increasingly voluble discontent with the usual suspects who run things in their countries, and complain that they run them in the interests of only a section – a different section of course – of the population, leaving many struggling and discontented. If this is the case and if two further things are also the case, which are that the not-OK are growing towards a majority and that the OK don’t care much about the not-OK, then this combination could account for the three monkeys of Trump, Brexit and ‘populism’.
Returning to the EU: by and large national leaders are in favour of the EU but a regular complaint made by EU leaders is that national problems are blamed on ‘Brussels’. If such complaints are justified, perhaps national leaders favour the EU because they can delegate blame upwards. Or perhaps they are sincere in their respect for the EU and wish to see a federal government but still have to deal with their own disaffected populations. Either way there may be a transfer of discredit from national leaders to the EU. The populists, Brexiteers and even Trump all express their discontent with the EU, which provides some supporting evidence for this explanation.
It is no secret to anyone who reads our blog that we have severe reservations about the EU project. What is more interesting, and pertinent, is that increasing numbers of Europeans are expressing their own reservations about the project and although their reasons may be different from ours their conclusion is the same; the EU is a Bad Thing.
We do not believe that Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Brexit emerged from nowhere for no reason; they are a product of the European Union, whose leaders refuse to acknowledge the damage they are doing to the worthy cause of a European community by sticking rigidly to their federalist and convergent ideology and by exhibiting their disdain for national electorates and the governments they can, and do, reject. Not to mention the would-be European government that electorates will not be able to dismiss.
In our blog we cover these issues in some detail and offer arguments to explain why increasing numbers of EU citizens are rejecting the ill-disguised agenda for completing the Union. While we don’t like some of the company we keep, that company has arisen to express, and to exploit, the inchoate feelings of disconnection that the EU project generates among its peoples.
It must be frustrating for ex-prime ministers who run EU institutions to face the prospect of losing the opportunity to govern. And even more frustrating for an ex-prime minister of what is soon to be an ex-member state to lose any opportunity to have another go at governing on a grand scale. The frustration no doubt extends to many in senior positions in the governments of member states, and of would-be member states, who fancy an agreeable job – and an even more agreeable pension – in Brussels, or Strasbourg, or even Luxembourg. Not least among the attractions of the prospect of joining a federal European government is that they would no longer be subject to the democratic whims of stupid and ignorant voters.
If the majority of people were not capable of making an informed decision in the EU Referendum why do the smart ones insist there should be a second referendum on the terms of leaving? They would need to ask an even more complex question than, “Should we stay or should we go?” Perhaps the OK ones think that if they keep putting new questions they’ll get the right answer eventually and can then stop asking; the ‘dumb’ ones might think, “If they’re going to keep asking more and more difficult questions I’d better leave the decision to people who understand things more than me.” Could we believe this or is a second referendum just another complacent fantasy?
Until those who are eager to see a more converged Europe recognise that in backing the EU they are taking Europe in the wrong direction, we are not likely to see an intelligent alternative to the EU being proposed.