Challenging the Brexit dogma when the occasion arises can earn respect and is certainly more satisfying than the policy of silence and avoidance espoused for too long by the main political parties.

First published in August 2021.

Professor Chris Grey, in his latest reflections for us over this quiet summer period, describes Brexit as a slow puncture. Whereas at one time it was widely assumed the public would “wake up” at some stage to the massive damage that Brexit involves, we now recognise that this is not necessarily the case. There will be no “judgment day” says Grey, no cathartic moment in which it becomes “received wisdom” that Brexit was a colossal, historic blunder.

I reached a similar conclusion some time ago, but the comparison that suggested itself to me was to a “slow virus”. These are viruses that lurk in the body to produce conditions such as dementia, typically over a lengthy period. The insidious onset means the illness and its cause are often not recognised. Similarly, says Grey, the deterioration of Britain will occur in dribs and drabs, as Britons get gradually poorer, with more restricted lives, with the problems blamed on things other than the true culprit.

Compounding this is the traditional stoicism of the British, who may mutter “mustn’t grumble” through their stiff upper lips, and tell each other to “grin and bear it”, when they ought to be rising up in mass protest. There is also the process of normalisation, whereby the unacceptable gradually becomes the norm. This can help explain the apparent tolerance and even popularity of a government whose continued gross dishonesty and corrupt practices should have ensured their immediate downfall.

A couple of analogies may make this even clearer. When an aeroplane descends from 30,000 feet to 5,000 feet, the passengers may hardly notice, though it’s very obvious to the air traffic controller on his screen. Britain is to some extent a closed community, an island nation made more isolated and inward-looking both by Brexit and by the lockdown. They do not have the air traffic controller’s view of themselves.

Another metaphor that has been invoked, in relation to the climate emergency as well as Brexit, is that of the boiled frogs. Drop a frog into very hot water and it jumps out straight away. But bring a cauldron of frogs slowly to the boil and they do not react in that way. They all die.

Before my readers switch off in despair, let me add that I do have an antidote or two to these depressing thoughts. Firstly, remember what I said in my last article, about events moving in cycles. At present, the political pendulum is gaining momentum as it swings further and further into Brexitland. As it does so, a force builds up to take it back in the opposite direction. In other words, the European Movement is gaining strength, and one day the tide will turn.

London: Heathrow Airport. | Flickr/Wally Gobetz

Secondly, may I recommend a little booklet just published by the organisation Stay European. Routes to Rejoin charts in crystal clear fashion the practical ways in which Britain could resume its rightful place in the European Union. The book is engaging and lucidly set out, and will certainly be a valuable read for the younger generation especially.

Taking a leaf out of that book, I do not attempt to conceal my pro-European views or apologise for them, in my everyday conversations. Whilst I acknowledge that our troubles can have complex causes, I resist the trend to use this as an excuse for routinely muddying the waters and creating doubt. Indeed, one could be forgiven for invoking Brexit as the chief suspect, whenever mischief is afoot. After all, Farage blamed anything and everything on the EU before the referendum. It seems a fair payback.

Chris Grey in several of his blogs has noted the popularity of the “Britain as victim” narrative. It has a certain resonance with the public which has been exploited by the tabloid press. Only last week a friend told me that, of course, it was well-known that other countries were in a plot to punish Britain for leaving the EU. He was emphatic that he had worked this out for himself, though it was straight from the pages of the Daily Express. I merely observed that foreign leaders probably have better things to do with their time than sit around thinking up punishments for a country whose importance, now we have left the EU, is rather less than that of outer Mongolia.

If other pro-Europeans are consistent in challenging these egocentric ideas which place Britain at the centre of the known universe, the objective facts about our status may begin to register. Newspapers for their part will need to be careful about their exaggerated claims, for the minute people begin to cotton on that they have been fed a diet of tall stories over the years, their already declining sales will plummet.

In conclusion, I have found that challenging the Brexit dogma when the occasion arises can earn respect and is certainly more satisfying than the policy of silence and avoidance espoused for too long by the main political parties. Predicting the future is a hazardous business at the best of times, but one thing I am sure of: one day the Brexit virus will be consigned to the history books.

At that point, a once-great nation will cease its decline and fall, and start to rise up again. 


John King, Retired doctor & Remain campaigner.


[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 18 August 2021. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Maxpixels. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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