Just ten days before the EU referendum, I wrote an article for Independent Voices with the headline, ‘You won’t get your country back if you vote for Brexit. You’ll give it away to the most right-wing government in recent history.’
And so, it has come about. My article was shared by Independent readers a record 67,000 times, but Brexit went ahead.
Today, I am re-publishing my article from 13 June 2016. Not everything I predicted came true – but too much of it has:
“WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK!” is the clarion cry of many who want Britain to leave the European Union.
But whose country do they want back exactly? Your country? My country? Or really, just their country?
Before we leave the European Union and possibly change our country forever, we need to have an idea what country we’d leave behind, and what country we’d get instead, if we vote for Brexit on 23rd June.
Look carefully at those Tories who are running the ‘Leave’ campaign and calling for Britain to completely change direction outside the EU.
What could be their real motive?
Those leading Tories – Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, John Whittingdale, Priti Patel, and others – have in this campaign viciously attacked their own government and Prime Minister.
It’s been a nasty and sustained ‘blue on blue’ offensive.
Do they know what they’re doing?
Presumably, yes. The referendum presents for them a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win power for their style of right-wing Conservatism.
So when they say, “Let’s take back control”, they really mean, “We want to take control”.
When they say “Bring back power from Brussels”, they really mean, “We want that power”.
And when they say, “We want our country back”, they really mean their country. The true-blue right-wing Tory Britain of the past that they sorely miss.
These Conservatives have taken a calculated but clever risk. They know that if the referendum results in Brexit, it will mean the end of David Cameron’s premiership and those now in government who support his Remain campaign.
There would be resignations and a new leader of the Conservative Party would be elected by the party’s membership.
According to YouGov, Boris Johnson would be front-runner by far to become Tory Leader. On Brexit, we could have a new brand of Conservative government, with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
Another election would not legally be required until 2020.
The country we’d be “getting back” on Brexit would be run by possibly the most right-wing Tory government anyone of us can remember.
Instead of our current alliances with Europe, we could be back to Rule Britannia with orthodox Tory Eurosceptics as our new political masters. They could have uninterrupted power for almost four years.
Opposition? What opposition? Labour and the Lib Dems are in disarray.
If these Tory hopefuls get “their country back” on Brexit, what could Britain become?
For an answer, take a close look at what these right-wing Tory Brexiteers stand for. Here are some brief examples:
• Iain Duncan-Smith: Long-term Eurosceptic and former Tory leader, he was until recently the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions. The social policies he proposed were described by the European Court of Justice as “unfit for a modern democracy” and “verging on frighteningly authoritarian”.
• Michael Gove: He was last year appointed as Secretary of State for Justice, with a mandate to scrap the Human Rights Act – which might only be possible if Britain leaves the European Union. As Education Secretary, Mr Gove was widely criticised for his heavy-handed education reforms and described as having a “blinkered, almost messianic, self-belief.”
• Boris Johnson: He’s the ‘poster boy’ of the Leave campaign and the likely new Prime Minister if Britain backs Brexit. His buffoonery and gaffes delight some, but horrify others. He once joked that women only go to university to find a husband. He has often dithered on big issues, wavering last year on whether to return to the House of Commons while still London Mayor. Some have criticised him for allegedly joining ‘Leave’ only because of the opportunity to become Prime Minister.
• Priti Patel: She’s the Minister for Employment. In a pro-Brexit speech last month she said, “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3 billion boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.” TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady responded, “Leave the EU and lose your rights at work – that’s the message that even Leave campaigners like Priti Patel are now giving.”
• Chris Grayling: He’s the Leader of the House of Commons and previously Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. He provoked the first strike by barristers and solicitors for his cuts to legal aid. He backed reforms to curb the power of the European Court of Human Rights. He caused outrage with his comments that Christian owners of bed and breakfasts should have the right to turn away gay couples (he later apologised).
And waiting in the wings is Ukip leader Nigel Farage who said he puts victory in the referendum above loyalty to his party. Farage also said he would back Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister if Britain votes for Brexit – and could see himself working for Boris’s government.
Imagine our current Tory government morphing into a new government consisting only of right-wing Eurosceptic Tories, with the softer pro-EU Conservatives disbanded because they lost the referendum.
A new Conservative government that wouldn’t be subject to the progressive rules and safeguards of the European Union – such as on workers’ rights, free movement and protection of the environment.
Then imagine that we might not have an opportunity to vote out such a new government until 2020.
If you’re one of those who say “We want our country back”, have a think about what country you’d be getting back if we left the EU, and who’d really be in charge of it. Would they represent you?
Is the EU so bad – and the alternative so good – that we’d want to risk exchanging what we’ve got for what we’d get?
- Join and share the discussion about this article on Facebook: