Brexit Musings (13) – Don’t Panic, Mr Farage, The UK Is Leaving


The Leave side is in danger of not even making the argument. – Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage is in a state of panic – big time. You know the feeling, I’m sure. You just know that something is going to go incredibly wrong in your life. Remember that summer, when you were having a romantic time with your loved one, in a deluxe hotel room, on a tropical island? Suddenly, a thought creeps into your mind, and fills you with doubt and insecurity. In the middle of the most romantic act known to man, you cannot remember if you paid your electricity bill, before leaving.

Nigel Farage is also on his tropical island, ever since he saw the sun rise, to mark his “Independence Day”. It was a foregone conclusion, he thought. The UK was shutting up shop, and leaving the busy high street, in search of a more prosperous and secure setting, to set up trade. Eighteen months later, he is no longer sure of himself, and can no longer enjoy the fruits of victory. In the same way that you may have overlooked such a mundane thing as paying a bill on time, Nigel Farage has forgotten the mundane nuts and bolts that hold our democracies together – arguments and parliament.

Nigel Farage and the Leave camp, were just fortunate that the Remainers had all the arguments, but no campaign.

In deploring the lack of argument, Farage is forgetting that the Leave side didn’t really have an argument to begin with. Their campaign was based on making the EU a scapegoat for all the UK’s problems. Nigel Farage and the Leave camp, were just fortunate that the Remainers had all the arguments, but no campaign.

At the forefront of the argument, was a ludicrous sum of money that could be pumped into an ailing health service, once the UK had ceased to pay its EU contribution. Farage, himself, even admitted, the day after the referendum, that this was, at best, wishful thinking and, at worst, a lie. 

His second argument focused on immigration. You know what I’m talking about? If you don’t, let me explain. I’m referring to those funny looking people who speak English with an accent, or not at all, and who do not merit a second chance in our democracies, that are far from being full (the unemployment rate in the UK was 4,3% in October 2017). The truth of the matter is that we don’t even want to help them in their own lands, yet alone give them refuge here. 

Nigel Farage made it absolutely clear that foreigners were threatening to take over the UK’s towns and cities. Not hearing a word of English before the London underground train reached Green Park was, for poor Nigel, a real cause for concern. The fact that he admitted being no good at languages, and that London gets millions of foreign visitors every year is neither here nor there. Farage was, of course, the leader of the extreme right-wing party UKip. However, inciting racial hatred, is not only the trademark of politicians belonging to extreme right-wing parties. Middle ground politicians can also, willingly or not, make remarks that will fuel the already hypochondriac and/or paranoid voter’s mind. A good example of this, is to be found in a speech made in 1991, by the French politician Jacques Chirac. 

Add to that the noise and the smell, and the French worker goes crazy. –  Jacques Chirac, 1991

He was alluding to the fact that France could no longer “afford” handing out benefits to what he called “polygamous immigrants”. He added that due to the noise and smell coming from an immigrant’s council flat, it was no surprise that his French neighbour would “go crazy”. Well, to be honest, if my neighbour were playing loud music and having a barbecue at 3 in the morning, I’d go crazy too.

Chirac, of course, went on to become president of France, but not without criticising his predecessor, François Mitterrand, for an “overdose” of immigrants.

Noise, smell, overdose? Sounds more like the back streets of the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

As with many things, the Americans are way ahead of us, and US politicians have been playing on people’s anxieties and fears for years, if not centuries. The historian Richard Hofstadter, in an article published in Harpers Magazine in 1964, described what he called “the paranoid style of American politics” as “an old recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.”

The technique is simple and effective. All you have to do is “predict” that if nothing changes, the whole of society as it now is, will collapse. Political systems will fail and moral values disappear. Nevertheless, the voter has a unique opportunity to avoid certain disaster by casting his vote in the ballot box. The “point of no return” will have been avoided.

To be fair, both sides tried to play on people’s fears, during the referendum: collapse of the financial markets on the one hand, mass immigration and its consequences on the other. The contest was a foregone conclusion. Voters could hallucinate much better over the unavoidable invasion of the UK by European migrants than over the loss of a few pounds in the City. For the overwhelming majority of those who voted “leave” on June 23rd, 2016, money from the City has no smell, European migrants do.

Nigel Farage has also forgotten that parliament exists, and that it is the only institution that has the authority to carry out the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The fact that Theresa May did not get the majority that she was seeking, in last year’s snap election, probably reflects the true will of the British people, to leave the EU, but not under any circumstances, or at any price. In winning her battle to make parliament the sole executor of Brexit, Gina Miller was only doing what others should have done – maintaining the responsibility of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two pillars of the UK democratic system. You can think what you want of the House of Lords, but now is certainly not the time to get rid of it. It is now up to parliamentarians to bear their responsibility for the fate of the UK, and to decide whether the final deal – if deal at all – is good or bad for the country. They must base their decision solely on the nature of the deal, irrespective of whether they are pro or anti-EU. In doing so, whilst accepting the will of the electorate that was expressed in the referendum, they must still decide and vote with their conscience, and their wisdom.

Nigel Farage need not panic about Brexit. It’s going to happen, and is just a question of when, and, more importantly, how.