Snap out of it, Britain. Brexit won’t save you

Hmm . . . put my kids out of work or stay in the damned EU? Decisions, decisions

Winston Churchill: You’ll still see his face on the fiver – if you’re lucky enough to have a fiver in your pocket. Photograph: PA Wire

Winston Churchill: You’ll still see his face on the fiver – if you’re lucky enough to have a fiver in your pocket. Photograph: PA Wire

 

In an unhappy reversal of the apocryphal myth about the Inuit, it seems as if old British people are prepared to abandon their children on the ice floes if it means that Churchill can stay on the fiver, beer can still be served in pint jugs and Antiques Roadshow can remain uninterrupted by any future release of Nelson Mandela.

I exaggerate more than a little. But a recent survey from YouGov does suggest that the relevant demographic is moving in that direction. The polling organisation asked Brexit voters the following: “Regardless of whether you think such an occurrence is likely, would you consider significant damage to the British economy to be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the EU?”

This is all about the economy. Isn’t it? The myth put about is that the UK can now, unhindered by EU shackles, negotiate deals with the wider world that guarantee eternal prosperity.

Heed this. Fully 61 per cent answered “yes”. Only 21 per cent delivered a firm “no”. So just a fifth of Brexit voters were prepared to say that separation was not worth having if it led to “significant damage” to the economy. Who cares if service industries crumple? The EU flag will no longer appear on number plates. The British will no longer have to queue with beastly French when exiting Dublin airport. They’ll be waiting behind visitors digging out entry visas issued in impossibly distant bits of the British Commonwealth.

Yes, we have no bananas

The poll got scarier. When those voters were asked if they felt they or a family member losing their job was a price worth paying for Brexit, a slim plurality of 39 per cent said “yes”. Thirty-eight percent said “no”. The older the voters got the more they prioritised Brexit over economic stability. Remember that the oldest voters are likely to be retired. Economic collapse will be of more consequence to their descendents than to themselves. It really does seem that, for too many, maintaining unfiltered Britishness is more important than their grandchildren’s financial security. Yes, we can’t afford bananas. But the bananas we can’t afford have, at least, not been straightened by Barmy Brussels Bureaucrats.

In a spirit of fairness, we should note that emotional madness affects Remainers too

The rush towards Brexit has sent its supporters into the sort of emotional fervour you expect to encounter at a Christian revivalist meeting. It’s not an economic argument. It’s possession. Patriotism is like that. They’re shaking with the spirit of Jesus and speaking in tongues. Listen to some of the things they are saying. Just last week the younger Ian Paisley suggested that “Ireland will wise up and leave the EU”. Elsewhere, Daniel Hannan MEP, among the most fervent preachers for the Church of Brexit, was going further and implying that Ireland might re-enter the United Kingdom. “It would surely be logistically easier to treat the British Isles as what it has always been – a single customs area,” he bellowed from his Twitter pulpit. Testify! Testify!

Robot pontiff

Another poll went some way towards exorcising crazier demons. Commissioned by European Movement Ireland, it told us that 88 per cent of Irish people think the country should remain in the European Union. A staggering 99 per cent of students agreed. What sort of outlying view is held by just 1 per cent of students? I’m guessing that more believe the pope is an android or that horses speak Swedish. None of this will, however, do much to calm the holy Brexiteers.

In a spirit of fairness, we should note that emotional madness affects Remainers too. Those answering “yes” to the complementary question – preferring economic chaos to leaving the EU – numbered a hefty 34 per cent. Counter-revivalist mania is less fervent than the other sort, but there is still a fair bit of it about. We saw more of this last week when a rumour that EU flags had been banned at the BBC Proms generated social media fury about reactionary kickbacks from a blimpish establishment. The story proved to be untrue. But it allowed the Remain camp its own moment of religious mania.

The mass delusions are, nonetheless, more vigorous for those in the Leave tent. Kicking up ironies with which no satirist would dare toy, the Daily Mail reported “shambles at airports” while “holidaymakers queue for hours as Brussels imposes tough passport checks”. What did you expect? It’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse. One of the results of cutting yourself off from your neighbours is that you end up being cut off from your neighbours.

Snap out of it. This is real life. God won’t save you. Brexit won’t save you. Then again, the results of that poll suggest the Brexiteers aren’t really that interested in being saved. A glorious calamity might suit them just as nicely.

Dunkirk is still in cinemas.

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