We must reclaim the banner of patriotism from the Brexiteers
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, Communities & Local Government and Exiting the EU Committee member Wera Hobhouse supports a People’s Vote and writes 'We must expose the Brexit lie, and make sure that lies will not prevail in a true democracy'.
We are reaching the moment of decision. A People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU looks far more likely than it did even a month ago.
So what can swing the argument decisively towards staying in the EU?
Fury at the Brexiteers on the grounds that lies undermine democracy.
At the core of the argument for Brexit was a fundamental lie: that we can reclaim absolute ‘control’ over various matters (immigration, legal judgements, trade deals etc.) and have no adverse economic consequences. The ‘and’ was the lie.
Theresa May has tried to negotiate a deal that simultaneously takes back ‘control’ and keeps our economy prosperous. That she will certainly fail on these terms is not because she is uniquely incompetent. She will fail simply because her task is impossible. By not calling out the lie that is making her job impossible, she is bowing down to something that threatens the very foundations of our democracy.
The myth that must be defeated is that the ‘and’ was possible or that it was just optimistic. The British people have to understand they could never have had both. Anyone who blames Theresa May’s incompetence or the EU’s intransigence for what is now happening perpetuates that myth.
Corbyn paints Theresa May as a bungler but he cannot make the lie true. Labour might choose to better protect the economy by remaining in the Customs Union, but they would then be unable to reclaim the ‘control’ that was promised.
The EU could never do other than uphold the rules of its membership. It could not bend to satisfy the Brexiteers’ lie.
To win a People’s Vote convincingly for staying in the EU there has to be a collective fury against the Brexiteers for lying about what was possible.
The greatness of our country lies in its democracy. A true democracy is honest about the presentation of real choices. It stands on a powerful but fragile pillar: truth. If lies go unchallenged democracy falls. Democracy only survives if true democrats are intolerant of liars.
Democracy is under serious threat in the West today not because any of our democratic institutions or laws have changed, but because enough people have become afraid to call lies by their name and have chosen to appease liars just because their lies have won elections and referenda.
For centuries British democracy has been a beacon to other countries. It is at the heart of our British patriotism and an inbuilt part of our identity. We must reclaim the banner of patriotism from the Brexiteers. They are already saying that we must push through Brexit or prove ourselves unpatriotic, to which I say that those who make that claim are neither patriots nor democrats.
We must expose the Brexit lie, and make sure that lies will not prevail in a true democracy. This should be the ultimate assertion of a patriotism of which the British people can be rightly proud: the truthful and enduring democratic process.
Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, Communities and Local Government. She a member of the Exiting the EU Committee and the MP for Bath.