Brexit is a religion. Full stop. But is there a way to stop this religious fanatism?
First published in June 2019.
Brexiters ‘believe’ in Brexit. An ideology of division, isolationism and chaos carried by careless, self-interested and self-proclaimed prophets.
People who do not believe in Brexit are mockingly labelled ‘Remoaners’, be they politicians, journalists, artists, business people or simple commoners, it does not matter. Brexiters make no distinction of status or class when they label people. In some cases, they even call them ‘Traitors’ on national papers with the sacred claim that they do not accept the will of the people. Because, to the Brexiters, you are either on THEIR right side of History or you are not. You either believe in Brexit or you don’t.
AN IDEOLOGY IN WHICH YOU ARE ALWAYS RIGHT.
Look no further than two recent incidents involving Boris Johnson to prove how Brexit has indeed turned into a religion and Brexiters embraced a cult of personality to protect and worship their High Priests.
When quizzed by Sky News’ Beth Rigby about his decision to describe Muslim women as “letterboxes” at the launch of his Conservative Party leadership bid, the supporters of the former Mayor of London literally booed and jeered the journalist.
The same thing happened just ten days later at the first Conservative party hustings event in Birmingham, when the host and broadcaster Iain Dale asked Boris Johnson on four consecutive occasions why the police had been called to his house the previous day after a row with his girlfriend. As Johnson refused to give him a straight answer, his supporters booed and heckled the journalist, and cheered on the former Foreign Secretary.
Brexit is a religion where no form of opposition to the Brexit belief is tolerated. Where facts are not allowed. Where scrutiny is forbidden.
Brexit is a religion where unconditional adoration and worship of the High Priests are mandatory. Where lies, fraud and uncomfortable truths are hidden behind smoke screens.
And indeed, as Nina Schick rightly wrote in her tweet, Brexit is an ideology in which Brexiters are always right.
THE FIFTY SHADES OF BREXIT.
So, who are the Brexiters?
For months, we regularly heard senior Brexiters claim that Brexit could have been all turning good for everyone if Remainers had got on with it and backed Theresa May and her government instead of moaning and opposing them.
The problem is that Remainers cannot choose to ‘believe’ in Brexit because they would have to persuade their own mind that Brexit is right, when it is simply not. They would not only lie to themselves about their true understanding of Brexit but also lie to others by pretending to believe.
We can distinguish various degrees of belief in Brexit. It all depends on how strong your belief is and how much of a Eurosceptic you are. This widening schism has consequences that have already transformed the way we talk about politics in this country for the worse.
THE TRUE BELIEVERS
The True Believers (also known as ‘Ultra-Brexiters’), it seems, believe in the hardest type of Brexit, the so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit. These fanatics literally hate the European Union and everything it stands for. They largely hate non-white, foreign-speaking foreigners — i.e. unless they are wealthy foreigners who, say, invest in an English football team and win the Champions League... They dream of the long-lost white British Empire ruling the waves as promised by the likes of Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan, Andrea Jenkyns, John Redwood, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ERG lots, the high-priests of Brexit who care more about their wealthy friends and themselves making a lot more money out of Brexit than the future of the simple commoner who voted for Brexit in Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland or Hull.
THE FOREIGN-HATER BELIEVERS
The Foreign-Hater Believers are as extreme as the True Believers. They too believe in a ‘no deal’ Brexit. They too hate the EU and what it stands for. They also hate foreigners in general. They dream not of a global Britain but of a white protectionist England. Their extremely wealthy prophets are to be found both hidden behind anti-EU, anti-immigration tweets and behind the front page of papers such as the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Daily Express and the Telegraph.
THE OPPORTUNISTIC BELIEVERS
The Opportunistic Believers can be as extremist as the True Believers on occasions for the simple fact that their belief in Brexit is more opportunistic. Indeed, if you scratch the surface, you quickly realise that they don’t actually believe in Brexit at all and are rather more interested in their prophet’s crazy hairdo entering Number 10 and imposing their will over the people of Britain.
David Davis’ inertia at the Brexit Department and gaffe-prone Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office certainly gave us a glimpse of what is still to come if Theresa May is ousted by her own disciples. For them, whatever side the winds blow is where Brexit must go. Can they not just be gone with the wind, then?
THE BORN-AGAIN BELIEVERS
The Born-Again Believers or Born-Again Brexiter. They were Remainers during the 2016 Referendum. They supported and voted Remain. But as soon as the referendum results were out, they turned their coat and embarrassed Brexit and all its fantasies. Career before country!
They can turn very nasty at times and, similarly to the Opportunistic Believers, their belief in Brexit is opportunistic. They have one thing in mind and one thing only, their boss’s job and would be ready to do and say anything to journalists to sound as Brexiter as the real, ultra Brexiters, and sometimes even more... Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt are certainly ahead of the pack here. Again, alike with the Opportunistic Believers, wherever the winds blow... is where they go.
THE COMMON BELIEVERS
The Common Believers read anti-EU propaganda papers, websites and social media accounts and believe what they say. That the EU is evil because it forbids straight bananas, demands the EU flag be displayed at sporting events all over Europe, makes a record number of EU laws in secret, tries to liquidate Eurosceptic parties by suspending their funding, and other myths... To them, immigration is only a problem when they hear the Farage alikes constantly linking immigration to security and terrorism in the media. Though of the Spanish nurse that looked after them in hospital last week, they say: “Not her. She’s fine. She can stay. It’s the others (the problem).” It is always the others, isn’t? The thing is: we all are the other of someone.
Opposite to this deluge of negative news are Brexit prophets telling Common Believers that life will be so much better outside the EU, as long as you do not ask for precise details... but be reassured, there will be unicorns!
THE CORBYN BELIEVERS
The Corbyn Believers don’t actually believe so much in Brexit but in the cult of Jeremy Corbyn, which they consider as a half-prophet, half-god. And whatever his views on Brexit, they follow and they support, because they believe his word is the ultimate truth. They believe only he can negotiate a deal with the EU that would deliver the “exact same benefits” as the UK’s current membership of the single market and customs union. [sic] They know they hate the Tories and they would do anything to get them out of Number 10. Yet, they are a minority within a minority that holds the power in the Labour Party with a dream of a Venezuela-style Great Britain.
THE DON’T-KNOW BELIEVERS
The Don’t-Know Believers usually answer “I don’t know” in opinion polls. They don’t really have any set of ideas or views on anything. They, however, get easily influenced by politicians or media who repeatedly tell them how to think. They thus tend to change their mind at the very last minute on anything.
For example, this lady who appeared on BBC’s Questions Time to tell the whole nation that although she was going to vote Remain, on the day of the vote, she changed her decision at the last moment because she thought about straight bananas in supermarkets...
Question Time. / BBC One
THE RELUCTANT BELIEVERS
Finally, we have the Reluctant Believers. These are the people who voted Leave in 2016 but who, as time goes, with the government’s chaotic negotiations, the threats of a looming ‘no deal’, the million different versions of Brexit that did not exist during the campaign, now start to regret their decision and wonder how to get out of this mess. The most obvious way being a second referendum. Many Reluctant Brexit Believers have recently and courageously made their feelings known on social media and in the press.
They regret their vote and have chosen to become #RemainerNow, once they have looked at the evidence that shows how disastrous Brexiting the European Union would be for Britain. They have decided that it no longer makes sense to them and they are absolutely right to do so.
Not only are they right, they are actually courageous. Courageous? To be courageous is to take a risk, it is also to act to avert a risk or a danger. The act of recognising your mistake, admitting you made a mistake and doing whatever it takes to correct that mistake is courageous.
Hardcore Brexiters see them as cowards, traitors to the cause, converted to the evil EU.
Remain activists and campaigners should see them as the ones who went to the other side, who were once seduced by the dark side, but have now chosen to move to the light side. Remainers should listen to them, understand the arguments that took them to the other side and ultimately learn from them.
The Brexit prophets and high-priests’ beautiful sermons and promises of lands of glory, wonders and unicorns if Brexit happens can go on... The evidence and arguments that made #RemainerNow change their mind may very well be the path to end this religious fanatism called Brexit and help the Remain side win a People’s Vote.🔷
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