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Alarmism

A breathtaking opinion piece at ConservativeHome advocates “preparing for what’s best called a No Deal deal now—to kick in from next March, rather than the spring of 2020”. They’re getting themselves psychologically prepared (if not actually, y’know, prepared) for something that was supposedly unthinkable a year ago. The comments thread shows the Brexiter strategy of Remainer-blaming in full flight. It’s an intriguing thread, because you can also see in it plenty of Conservative panic.

Some commenters there still cling to the idea that this is all a masterly game of double-bluff: “Those of us who ‘bang on’ about no deal do not necessarily want no deal; we just want a good deal, which can only be obtained if we threaten no deal.”

We’ll end up with no deal because they’re speeding down the motorway playing chicken with an oncoming brick wall labelled 29 March 2019. The EU doesn’t have to cower before such “threats”: it’s resigning itself to our departure and preparing for the worst, which will hurt our neighbours (except, unfortunately, our closest neighbour) far less than it hurts us.

Too much of my pessimistic vision of future America from 18 months ago has been confirmed, so I desperately hope that the same isn’t true of my current vision of future Britain: the one where parliament does little to restrain May’s government; where the government’s negotiations fail utterly; and where Britain crashes out of the EU with nothing to save us.

The DUP will never trigger an early election, and there aren’t enough Tory rebels who would be willing to. Corbyn will never get a chance to be prime minister. In 18 months there won’t be a Labour Party worth fighting over. Diehard Leave voters will be looking for someone to blame for the misery that awaits us in April 2019, and will choose the same people they chose in 2016: immigrants and experts. Umberto Eco’s much-cited article from 1995 contains prescient echoes not only of Trump, but of today’s Britain:

Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

The most recent hate crime statistics available for England and Wales, from October 2017, show that it has been steadily increasing for five years and is now at double the levels of 2012. If there’s been any levelling off, and I can’t see it in those figures, it would be because the bigots of Britain feel that they’re about to get what they want: a Brexit that sees foreigners kept out and kicked out.

The possibility of a fascist turn doesn’t depend on majority support—Trump has never had a popular majority. All it needs is sufficient support from below for those in charge to justify it.

It isn’t inevitable. But if we crash out, Britain will suffer an economic shock an estimated four times worse than in 2008, and drastic immediate effects on everyday life, while at the same time losing much of its capacity to recover. The credit crunch gave us the 2011 riots. I can’t see how a Brexit crunch won’t give us worse.

The only consolation is that younger voters (under 50 and especially under 25) seem so strongly opposed to Brexit that there’s a large potential pool of vigorous opponents. But if we’re all left disoriented and scrambling from a post-crash shock, that’s going to weaken our capacity to organise and fight back. There was a strong trend of younger voters backing Clinton in 2016, too, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed down Trump’s supporters.

The best time to fight this possible future, in the time remaining to us before 29 March 2019, is right now. That’s why I’ll be marching in London on Saturday.

21 June 2018 · Politics


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