The E.U. referendum campaign has moved into its final and likely most poisonous stage - even by the standards of a campaign during which Inners have warned of economic cataclysm, social unrest and even war if electors opt for Brexit - and have resorted to something resembling gerrymandering. As polls show the gap closing (although the Outers remain overall underdogs), the political temperature is rising to subtropical levels.
The issue of Europe has overshadowed all domestic politics for months, and underlaid it for decades. There are Conservative and UKIP activists who remember the last time the British voted on this, in 1975. But resonances go much further back, with Eurosceptic arguments containing centuries-old folk memories of island-England, Shakespeare’s “demi-Eden”, the England of Boudicca, Hereward the Wake, Drake, Nelson and Churchill, alone against successive Romans, Normans, “Dons”, “Frogs” and “Jerries", trying to control conscience, politics and trade. These notions are part ethnofiction, and stray into Philistine complacency - but are no more intrinsically absurd than some Inners’ adolescent rationales.
The three chief issues have been the economy, sovereignty and immigration. The Remainers lead on the first, backed by most economists, the Bank of England, I.M.F., W.T.O. and others. Brexiters insist the UK’s annual £8.5 billion net contribution to E.U. funds would be better spent at home, that a post-E.U. U.K. would be more flexible, and notes that economists are frequently wrong - but acknowledge there could be short-term pain. One of their strongest suits, the ability to increase funding for health and schools, is weakened because most Brexiters are neo-liberals, notoriously cooler on both, and was further undercut on 9th June when a medico M.P. altered allegiance.
On sovereignty, Brexiters point out the complexity and facelessness of E.U. governance, the democratic deficit, and what proportion of UK laws are made or modified in Brussels (insofar as this can be determined) - particularly laws on trade, “human rights” and immigration (plus, perhaps, extra limitations on free speech).
Now they have shifted onto immigration, which has given them a huge fillip, but also brought familiar allegations of dastardliness. Even the careful Vote Leave has not escaped, while the spiritual leader of the English has accused Nigel Farage of racism. But Brexiters are buoyed by Cameron’s refusal to deliver on immigration, and the generic spectacle of small, old neighbouring nations under demographic siege, while mainstream politicians prevaricate. Staying in will almost certainly mean a huge wave of Turkish entrants in the not too distant future. Brexiters don’t even need to mention likely new incursions from Africa . On the day, an essential animating idea will be whether economic security is more or less important than cultural survival - whether there really will “ always be an England” (or a Scotland, or Wales). To the interrogative neologism “Brexit?” could be added another - “Brexistence”?
The prospect of Brexit throws up fascinating conundrums, like whether Parliament would respect voters' wishes, but the chances are that on 24th June millions who voted to go will wake to find themselves still in the continent’s clasp, and still with a country worth defending. The task then for Leaver leaders will be a no less worthy one - to seek out new allies and approaches across our wider civilisation, whose present political class is passing into overdue oblivion.
- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times. If you thought this article had lots of letters and even some interesting words, so does his last book.
Follow him on Twitter: Follow @DerekTurner1964 or e-mail to: email@example.com
Check out some other articles from Derek Turner:FLIGHTS OF FANCY
A HIGH VOLTAGE VOTE
British Tories taking on - and to - Trump