ANALYSIS Longheld views are being sacrificed on the altar of Brexit

Posted On: 
10th May 2018

When pressed for time or constrained by resources, we are forced to make choices. This filtering process reveals your ultimate priorities; what you can and cannot live without, what you’re prepared to sacrifice and what must always remain in place.

Brexit is forcing the country to re-evaluate its political beliefs.
Credit: 
PA Images

The same principle is unfolding in British politics. Politicians from across historic and newly-formed Brexit dividing lines are suddenly finding out just what their real priorities are.

The vexed issue of the Irish border has led some Brexiteers to conclude that the Good Friday Agreement, now they think about it, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The blockage on the Northern Ireland question – an issue that could derail the negotiations or prohibit the type of Brexit sought by some Leave campaigners – has forced those salivating at the prospect of Britain’s EU exit to reassess the rigidity of the Belfast accord.

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Writing in the Daily Mail last week, Norman Lamont revealed he no longer believes his long-held view that an unelected House of Lords is a good idea, after his colleagues inflicted not one but 14 defeats on the Government over Brexit. In the same paper this morning, Leave-supporting Tory MPs, some of whom opposed Lords reform in 2012, have lined up to denounce the “traitors in ermine”.

Conversely, pro-EU Labour MP Jess Phillips, a former opponent of the House of Lords, concluded in the Guardian, following recent events, that peers can serve a useful purpose. Alastair Campbell, a lifelong Burnley Football Club supporter, expressed hope that Liverpool wins the Champions League to show that “good things happen to those who put their head above the parapet against Brexit” (in reference to Reds manager Jurgen Klopp).

It has been fascinating to see what views people are prepared to sacrifice at the altar of Brexit.

Unlikely alliances are being formed among those who would otherwise have nothing in common. They are bound together in self-aggrandising quests to either see through the will of the people or prevent disaster for their country, depending on their disposition. Each is adamant that they will be on the right side of history.

Previously mainstream politicians, including Labour peer Lord Adonis, find themselves not only as outriders but revelling in such a position. The sensible people are being turned silly; railing against BBC bias where none might exist and turning sharply against old allies.

It’s not hard to see how all this plays out. For some hardliners, the only palatable Brexit is a clean break. Any subsequent economic turmoil would be put down to Remoaners talking Britain down, as though unconstrained optimism was an adequate antidote to the sobering nature of reality. And any economic fallout from a Brexit formed of compromises would be dismissed because it was not pure.

On the other side, potential positives following Brexit will be attributed to whichever EU constructs Britain remains signed up to or whatever concessions were achieved during the negotiations that preserve the status quo.

Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to the Brexit debate. Labour’s recent muted performance in the local elections has been put down to disproportionate media coverage of claims regarding anti-Semitism in the party and not giving Jeremy Corbyn a fair hearing. No responsibility can be placed at the feet of the Absolute Boy.

Any evidence of failures in a belief system is blamed on outside interference or inadequate execution. Watch how quickly ideologues drop their previously revered heroes when the proverbial hits the fan.

The dogmatic nature of politics today perhaps explains the existential hung parliament last week’s results indicate – Britain is polarised.

The only hope for those stuck somewhere in Brexit purgatory is that the sensible people prevail. The trouble is, these days they seem few and far between.