After the referendum, and before Covid, I sat down at one of my favourite eating places to enjoy a vegetarian curry. Hot stuff!
But more heated was the discussion that took place afterwards.
Brexiters to the left of me; Brexiters to the right of me. I was outnumbered, but I put up a good fight. Here’s how it went.
‘The EU isn’t democratic!’
‘Yes it is; laws are democratically passed.’
‘No. You are deluded. The Parliament is full of puppets. They do as they’re told.’
‘Actually, the EU is run by democratically elected politicians.’
‘You’re talking out of your behind! Look, tell me this, if the EU passed a law saying everyone had to wear women’s knickers on their heads, what could you do about it? Well, what could anyone do?’
‘The EU would never pass such a law. What could you do if our Parliament passed such a law?’
‘We could vote at the next general election.’
‘So, we can vote in the next European elections. Did you vote in the European elections?’
‘No. Waste of time. So you see, if the EU told us to wear women’s knickers on our heads, there’s nothing you could do.’
‘So, tell me one law of the EU that you don’t like.’
‘There are thousands, so many.’
‘Well, just tell me one.’
No answer. Conversation moves on…
‘And the EU accounts have never been signed off!’
‘Yes, they have been signed off every year by the independent auditors.’
‘No they haven’t.’
‘Yes they have.’
‘No they haven’t’
Get out mobile phone.
‘Look, here’s the signature of the President of the European Court of Auditors, signing off the EU accounts.’
‘Oh that’s not independent, it’s got European in the name’.
‘Of course it’s independent.’
‘No, I mean when PwC [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] refused to sign off the EU accounts.’
‘PwC has never audited the EU accounts.’
‘So, it must have been one of the other big accountancy firms.’
‘Why would any of them audit the EU accounts when the EU accounts are already signed off by the European Court of Auditors?’
‘Look another thing, it’s a gravy chain for EU bureaucrats. There’s a guy at the EU who gets paid 90,000 a year just to look into the shape of lettuces.’
‘Who are you talking about?’
‘I met him at a party. He told me. Why would he lie to me?’
‘Well, people sometimes embellish things at parties. What’s his name, I’ll contact him to check this out?’
‘I don’t know his name. I just met him at a party, and that’s what he told me. Of course he wouldn’t lie!’
‘Look, this is getting ridiculous. The referendum has split the country in half. There’s a real danger that it could split up the four countries of the UK.’
‘What’s wrong with that? We don’t need Scotland. Let them go.’
‘I think it would be very sad for the UK to split.’
Look, get over it. We’re leaving That’s democracy. We’re leaving.’
‘Yes, but in a democracy, voters can change their minds.’
The exchange went on for another hour. You can guess the rest.
These are all the same comments left on my Facebook pages every day, but this time, in real time, real space, face to face.
I said in passing,
‘The best debates are ones where you can agree the facts, and then discuss what you think about those facts. But the problem with the debate about Brexit is that nobody can agree on the facts.’
We all parted on good company, shook hands, and agreed it was a lively and interesting discussion.
But it’s taken over 40 years for such misinformation about all things EU (and Europe) to become rigidly entrenched in the minds of millions and millions of Britons.
Where’s the big campaign to enlighten and change minds? There isn’t one.
If there was another referendum next week, all the same immovable myths and misunderstandings would swirl around the country. Just like last time.
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