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Peter Kellow, DRP Leader, writes
Courtesy Sky TV News
In the days following the EU referendum, the Leave decision has aroused a notable reaction amongst Remainers. It is one that I must admit I never imagined for a moment
I thought these guys were democrats and would with ease accept the democratic decision and, to be fair the politicians (with the exception of the increasingly tetchy Tim Farron of the Libdems) have taken the decision with dignity and this includes the Prime Minister. They at least understand the political game
But outside the political classes, a lot of Remainers have turned nasty. As a Brexiteer I have been accused of xenophobia, fascism, racism, ultra-nationalism, being thick, and a few other things. Project Fear has become Project Hate
They are even petitioning the government to hold a rerun of the referendum to get a different result. They are losing their marbles.
What has happened to British tolerance, respect for the rules of the game and even that good old fashioned British phlegm?
The reason for the unreasonable, sudden irascibility of the defeated remainers, I believe, can be put down to the fact that they have been forced out of their comfort zone. I had never seen it in quite this way before but clearly the European Union offered them a kind of identity that they do not find in the nation to which they belong.
They now feel lost and deprived and cheated.
On the other hand, Leavers always saw the main aim of leaving was to secure British identity, British nationhood and independence. In listening to what they actually said in casual interviews this was confirmed over and over again
It is a strange thing, but, for the remainers, affirmation of Britishness in this way means fascist or racism or nationalism of an unpleasant kind.
Patriotism was not a card that was played by Leavers during the campaign but patriotism and love of country is part of the abhorrence felt towards the takeover by the EU and produced a craving for independence
Quite simply the Remainers see their identity as Europeans more important than their identity as Britons.
There are the practical and economic arguments as well but these are hardly being referred to by Remainers in the immediate post-referendum period.
What are the roots of the Remainers’ adherence to a pan-national project? They go very deep in political attitudes and divisions – perhaps deeper than anyone realised up to now when the cold light of a definite decision is illuminating repressed energies
Britain has for centuries been at the forefront of the idea that position in the global network is more important than internal domestic relationships. We often disregard self and our immediate neighbours in favour of the great game of international moves and interests
Specifically this was the main message contained in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations – a book whose influence on British life and politics is impossible to overemphasise.
Smith argued that we should no longer see prosperity and economic success as being bound up with the nation and its future. We should rather dismiss the unit of the nation as a focus of economic decision-making and see each enterprise and individual within it as being cast out into the global arena, there to meet the infinite challenges presented. Obviously, there can be no global government and so this aligns with Smith’s anti-government philosophy.
In The Wealth of Nations the role of government is reduced to the minimum possible. He recognised that we cannot do without it completely as we need it to defend the country and provide a rule of law – but it must not have an instrumental role in government. Economic prosperity must be left to the “invisible hand” of unmanaged, untrammelled, global economic forces
Although, since WWII, Smith’s libertarian views have come into their own in other countries, especially the USA and France, they have never gained the wide acceptance we might often imagine.
The most successful economy in Europe, Germany, is not run on Smithian lines. In Germany the government plays an active role in industry to advance home-grown industry – to spectacular effect.
The great nineteenth century German economist, Friedrich List, was a major critic of Smith’s. He argued that the idea that enterprises should be forced to operate in what he called Smith’s “universal republic” was bogus. He put forward a “national economics” whereby the government should take decisions based around the nation as a unit. List’s influence is still at the heart of German economic thinking.
This is where our Remainers will step up and say putting the home nation first in this way is “fascist”. We have to open our borders to people and trade for the sake of the ideology of globalisation and diminishment of the unified nation. Here ideology overrides national interest.
Why should they take this view? It is apparently a denial of self-interest. Well, they have accepted the Smithian view that our best interests are served by abandoning control of our nation to international market forces. This is pure ideology with no empirical basis to support it.
The most successful economies in the world (Germany, Singapore, South Korea and, in spite of the impression it might give, the USA) do not accept it. They work and plan to benefit their home industries and their nations as viable units
But the cries of the Remainers suggest an even deeper malaise. The only way I can describe it as “self-loathing”.
Remainers are afraid to embrace the nation to which they belong. Identifying with the home nation for them means a narrow, bigoted self-regarding interest
As well as to Smith, this can be traced back to the nineteenth century British philosopher and economist, John Stuart Mill.
Mill founded the cornerstone of an influential definition of liberalism which allied liberalism with empiricism. This was in stark contrast to, particularly continental, views of liberalism which were based firmly on the authority of the modern nation. You could not be free without belonging to a solid nation state to guarantee that freedom
But Mill’s concept of liberalism has infiltrated the British sense of liberalism to the extent that many of us are unable to imagine a concept of liberalism based in our very own nation. On the contrary, many Britons believe that such a view of what makes us free only drives towards appeasing dangerous tendencies, towards fanaticism. Hence the facile charge of “fascism” to which Brexiteers are subjected.
Even if they don’t realise it, it is this attachment to Mill’s abstract conception of liberalism that provokes this reaction.
Brexiteers have equated liberty with nation – so they must be extreme nationalists.
It is this difference of view of the foundations upon with liberty should be built that the referendum has exposed
This is utterly fundamental to the way each one of us conceives the political structures that we see ourselves as belonging to.
Remainers feel left out. And display themselves as very bad losers. Their sense of identity has been pulled out from under them
They see the pan-national European project as a counter to any national identity and so the EU comforted their deeply held sense of abstract liberalism. They cannot feel at ease with a British national identity. This opens up guilt that becomes projected onto the nation itself.
I write this as a comment on the immediate aftermath of the referendum. But the Remainers will shortly start to change their attitude
This will result not from events in the UK, for these will move relatively slowly, at least, compared to what is to come “on the continent” (it feels nice to be able to use that phase again so naturally).
The EU was always a fragile monster built on the shaky foundations of mutual distrust, defunct economic theory and the bureaucratisation of politics
It cannot survive in its present form without Britain. There will be calls for referendums in other countries in Western Europe. There are already.
France will probably be in the frontline and others will follow.
With their ideal collapsing before their eyes our Remainers will change their tune and be secretly glad to be out of the mess
They may even allow themselves a little national pride in the fact
We, Brexiteers, will welcome them back into the fold