Brexit Betrayal and Feeding the Populist Monster

Will there ever be a way out of the living nightmare that is Brexit? Like a cold that just won’t go away, Brexit, yet again, threatens to drag on and engulf us in more years of meaningless negotiation. 

Politically, we are at a dead end. With six days left before we are due to leave the European Union, what Brexit will look like remains as uncertain as it did the morning after the vote.

Extending Article 50 is now the only option but bubbling away under the surface of all this, the mood of much of the country has shifted.

The repeated failure of May’s administration to negotiate a workable Brexit settlement has led to the rise of a No Deal Brexit as the only politically viable option remaining.

As the argument goes, the country voted to leave the EU with or without a deal on terms that suited the UK, not those “dirty rats” in Brussels. From “Brexit means Brexit” to “No deal is better than a bad deal”, the prospect of a No Deal Brexit has risen from the political abyss so far that any extension of Article 50 is now framed as a form of “betrayal”.

Its patriotic undertones appeal to many Leave voters, helping the Right to frame it as what the people had voted for in the first place.

Brexit is now Parliament vs. the People, the UK vs. The EU; and in failing to rule out a No Deal, May has legitimised this culture war.

Fed by mainstream media outlets, the EU has been portrayed as the enemy of the people; a bureaucratic machine intent on our destruction.

Two years of failed negotiations and a severe case of Brexit fatigue has made a No Deal seem increasingly attractive.

Here lies the irony at the heart of the current Brexit negotiations. A “Soft Brexit”, which many see as being the likely outcome of any Article 50 extension and the only form of Brexit which appears to have support in the Commons, will simply not appease many Leave voters whose mood and political aspirations have changed.

A soft Brexit – which seeks to maintain close ties with the EU, limit economic dislocation, will keep Britain bound to EU laws and fail to restrict freedom of movement – does more to appease Remain voters than it does many Leave voters.  

We then have to ask, who are we delivering Brexit for? We are at risk of ignoring the “will” of the British people who voted to leave the EU no strings attached.  

This is something I believe many people have ignored. After Brexit, most people assume the far-right will dissipate; that Brexit will be forgotten and a few years down the line we can all look back and laugh at the whole sorry affair.

Not only is this naive, it is dangerous. This culture war shows few signs of stopping. Brexit will embolden the far-right, especially should it turn out to be a betrayal of what it was the people had voted for; which will no doubt be framed as a No Deal from the start.

The Left cannot deny that Brexit was a massive victory for the right. It has normalised bigotry and isolationism, highlighting the power of tribal populism when directed against minorities in society.

The Tories have fed this populist monster which is now growing ever-larger; threatening to engulf the entire country in the upcoming years. Who knows what it will eat next? But one thing is for certain, it won’t stop at Brexit.

The future looks ominous and, as our politicians continue to pander to the far-right, it is hard to see how the deep wounds in our society will ever heal.

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