The thing that puzzles most about Brexit is why its leading proponents think it’s a good idea. I have no difficulty understanding why their followers think so too. It’s because they are followers – because it’s their nature to think so too and also because (to coin a phrase) ‘they didn’t know what they were voting for’.
But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle – a section of blue sky and cloud in the top left-hand corner. Another is why these followers don’t even consider the possibility that a group of rich and/or privileged blowhards with whom they have little else in common are lying to them. Again of course there is the point that they are followers, even if their anti-european credentials stretch back to a time before such things were fashionable – if there ever was such a time, which I doubt. But I think there is another more important reason for their lack of suspicion – which is that there is no obvious reason why their leaders should be lying. Of course they are liars – leaders are by their nature liars in the same way that followers are by their nature credulous. So the question is rather, why this particular lie?
The cynics amongst us will say that it has something to do with money and it has – but that is neither a complete nor a convincing explanation. No doubt throwing off the shackles of social democracy will make some richer and no doubt for some of those that is reason enough. But if that was all there were, the leaders of Brexit PLC would have been exposed many moons ago. And besides there are some (most notably Mr Farage) for whom the pursuit of Brexit is markedly less lucrative than other avenues open to them and to which they would (ego permitting) probably like to return.
The missing piece I think is that by and large, the leaders of Brexit have a genuine desire however unrealistic to return their country to what they see as a state of glorious independence. No matter that in the past 40 years, the World has changed – for those of a certain age, forty years is but the blink of an eye. And so far as the consequences are concerned – well they can afford to damn those. And that is where their interests diverge from their followers.
When the merchants of project fear say that an economy post Brexit will grow by 4% or 8% less, it is not at all obvious to many of us how that is necessarily a problem. I mean – so what? No deal, no problem etc. We don’t get any richer but hey – we’ll be free.
And in all this excitement it is easy to lose sight of a simple truth – that the rich get richer. This is an immutable fact of economic life. As time passes, the rich and powerful take to use a popular analogy, more and more of the cake and the only way that anyone else gets a look-in, is if that cake keeps getting bigger. If it doesn’t, the only way for the rich to keep getting richer (which they must) is for the poor to get poorer – and more numerous.
Although their yearning for an independent (and hopefully united) kingdom may absolutely genuine, this is something that the Jacob Rees-Moggs of this world can definitely afford to push to the bottom of their list of things to worry about.