Leave To Remain



From top: UK Prime Minister David Cameron; Derek Mooney

Enough John Bull, says the author.

Britain will stay but Cameron must go.

Derek Mooney writes:

“Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role”

This withering assessment of Great Britain’s place in the post war world was made by former US Secretary of State, Dean Acheson in his famous 1962 West Point Academy speech.

The quote has been echoing in my head over the past few week as as I listened to a number of the key Brexit proponents making the case for Britain leaving the EU.

As the former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who strongly favours the UK remaining in the EU, said over the weekend; a legitimate case can be argued for the UK exiting on the basis of sovereignty and democracy.

But that is not what we hear from the key spokespeople on the leave side.

Not only have they increasingly concentrated on the nastier side of the argument, focusing, Donald Trump-like, on immigration, regulation and spurious statistics, they been employing the outdated jingo-ism of little Englanders.

The leave arguments deployed by such people as Iain Duncan Smith, Boris Johnston and Nigel Farage seem more suited to the last decade of the 19th century than they do to the second decade of the 21st century.

They campaign as if they had each stepped just out of a Pallisers novel, totally unaware that Great Britain was no longer at the head of a global empire upon which the Sun never set.

Not only do they use the inflated rhetoric and hyperbole of a long past era, it is as if they blame the EU for the decline in British power and influence that had been a fact of life long before Britain joined the (then) EEC.

The historical analogies they invoke are at best exaggerated and at worst, bogus.

Take Boris Johnson’s outlandish assertion that President Obama was urging the UK to remain due to Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage and “ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

Similarly, consider Duncan Smith’s response when asked who might be the UK’s main trading partners trade post Brexit. He suggested India, Hong Kong and several other places with whom, he said, Britain had such historic ties.

“Historic ties” in this context being a euphemism for former colony – hence why Acheson’s quote comes to mind.

The post empire “role” that Britain has found for itself, as a leader in the EU, is one that sits badly with those at the top and and at the bottom of the leave campaign. Perhaps because it is a role they must share with others, rather than impose.

The issue is not whether UK will or will not survive outside the EU.

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and had been for the past few years – just behind Germany as the fourth largest and just in front of France as the sixth largest.

The British economy is not going to implode outside the EU, but it is naïve in the extreme to imagine that Britain’s economic success is not due, in some measure, to its membership of the EU trading bloc and the access that gives to a market of 500 million plus people?

Could the UK attract the same degree of investment and interest if it only offered access to a market of 65 million?

Surely it is incumbent on those who urge a leave vote to produce something more to support their call for a leap into the dark than mere rhetoric and John Bull.

Contrast the leave arguments of the self anointed grandees with the Remain case being made by a real grandee such as Sir Nicholas Soames, M.P., a grandson of Winston Churchill.

Soame’s Twitter account has become one of the big hits of the referendum campaign, as he daily takes the Brexiteers to task, dismissing their little englander arguments with wit and aplomb:

Perhaps it is the wisdom of age and the experience of bitter political infighting on Europe, but it is now Soames, along with other Tory grandees, such as John Major, Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine who are the Tory voices of common sense, realism and the future.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum – and I strongly believe it will be remain – Cameron has managed to both damage his leadership and divide his party.

While he may have hoped an In/Out referendum may put an end to the decades long Tory division on Europe, he has mishandled both the project and the process from the start.

Less than a year ago he was telling voters that he would have no difficulties urging voters to leave the EU if he did not get the key reforms he needed to stay, particularly on the right to free movement.

Despite the hype and drama, the reforms he actually got are no where near the demands he had made, so how can he credibly claim that those now urging Leave are reckless for saying now what he said a year ago?

He has turned a national referendum on a vital political question into a proxy battle for the identity of the Tory party. Not only that, but he has managed to do it at precisely the same time as the main opposition party is having a major identity crisis of its own.

It is not only Britain that is still looking for a role, so are its two (and a half) main parties.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

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35 thoughts on “Leave To Remain

  1. Boj

    “He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010.”

    I’m out…

      1. Owen

        Maybe they didn’t take his advise? Perhaps he was the unappreciated voice of reason?

        In any event, its great to be able to say ‘Brits-out’ again!

    1. bisted

      ‘… a communications and public affairs consultant’…a euphemism for spin and deceit…that he did it for the FFers seems to make it worse.

  2. Norbet Cooper

    You mean the government that ignored the first Lisbon treaty result of the Irish people in 2009, not to mention the Nice treaty in 2002…. European ‘vote till you get the result we want’ democracy at it’s finest.

    1. Rob_G

      The Irish people were asked to vote on the Lisbon treaty – they rejected it.
      The text was amended (based on some of the concerns expressed in Ireland); the electorate was asked to vote on the new text – they endorsed it.

      I would have thought that this represents a good example of democracy at European level.

      1. The Real Jane

        “The Irish people were asked to vote on the Lisbon treaty – they rejected it.
        The text was amended (based on some of the concerns expressed in Ireland); the electorate was asked to vote on the new text – they endorsed it.”

        Yeah, there was a massive amount of research into why they were rejected the first time. Personally I find the reach of the eurskeptic UK tabloid press here most dismaying. Can’t we have our own news without having to apply a little englander gloss?

        1. Kieran NYC

          It’s strongly embraced by the ‘Little Irelander’ hard left

          The Irish hard left will join along with anyone as long as it’s ‘against’ something.

    2. Bob

      Funny how you accept the people’s democratic decision the first time, but not the second.

  3. Eoin

    If you ignore Britain and her vote and look at the Eurozone on the whole it would seem the whole thing is slowly coming apart anyway. A British exit now would just put them ahead of everyone else by a few years. Austria just narrowly avoided voting in the first far right head of state in the zone. Juncker has said the EU will ‘ignore’ far right leaders. And the EU has just brought in sanction laws for nations that pull away from the core EU ideals. This thing is coming apart. Sooner the better. EU is competitive. It’s not doing anyone any favours apart from Germany.

    1. rotide

      This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.

      You might as well say ‘what have the EU ever done for us… splitters” and be done with it.

      The EU does plenty of countries favors, us included.

        1. Kieran NYC

          Want to give back all the money for roads, farm subsidies and every other infrastructure grant, so?

  4. Mike Baldwin

    They used to say that the sun never set on the British Empire. Today it sets at at exactly 21:06.

  5. Chris

    If the Brits want to peer into the abyss that is non EU membership I would be as inclined to give them a polite root up the unmentionable and push them in. Borris and the tories will do better than ever. They’ll dig a moat around City of London and it will be a super rich fiefdom like Switzerland. The rest of the Brits will soon be crying into their tea, which will hyper inflate, expect a tea and crumpet to cost around 15pounds.

  6. Chris

    Human nature and counterfactual thinking means we constantly view everything as if it was falling apart. To gain balance conduct the same theoretical review on Europe circa 1930 when it was really falling apart, or go back further to the Middle Ages, that was really bad. Everything is not really falling apart now it just suits certain factions to assert that it is.

  7. Frilly Keane

    Cameron’s going nowhere

    He win this one
    and win it well

    well enough to turn Gove into a I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out’ve here cast member
    and strongly enough to give Boris the kick up the whole no one else has managed to score

    Lord Cameron next

    1. some old queen

      He win this one
      and win it well

      Not so sure. UKIP are the third largest party in Britain now. Combine that with pro Brexit within the Tories and it could be a lot closer call than predicted.

    2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      I think Remain will win, but by a much slimmer margin than anticipated. More so if the youth vote comes out. However, the runctions in the Tory party mean at the minimum a leadership challenge for Cameron. Depends who he would be up against but he is not liked by his own party.

  8. Eoin

    We get token crumbs from the EU. And the Euro has been heavily over printed (and will suffer as a result down the line as all fiat currencies turn worthless). And nobody wants to have centralized power from Brussels anymore. It is anti-democratic. The EU will come apart.

    1. Kieran NYC

      The EU has paid for almost every major road in the state. And our farming industry.

      Go away, you anti-intellectual.

  9. 15 cents

    being in the EU is akin to gangs running protection rackets on small businesses. they keep you secure but at far too high a cost.

  10. some old queen

    Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant which in other words is a spin doctor. When spin looses a campaign they always talk of their mistakes in getting the message across, rather than that the electorate just thinking they were plain wrong and that very much comes across in this piece.

    The closer the United States of Europe becomes the more sovereignty individual countries lose, and they lose to Germany which rattles the English. While Britain benefited from EU free trade, Germany has gained much more from the Euro so by default, they have more to lose if the whole thing unravels.

    And then there is immigration, not as a scare tactic but real and visible on nearly every street in Britian. There are entire towns which has been transformed to the point where it would be hard to tell you were in England at all. They have reached saturation point which is being exploited by the UKIP.

    The ex British colonies like India are quite happy to work with Britain because they share a common culture. It is no coincidence that so much outsourced British call centres are in India and rather than importing low skilled labour from Eastern Europe, as well as setting up individual trade agreements they will have a greater freedom to import high tech skills from elsewhere.

    It will be a lot closer than people think.

    1. 15 cents

      so many people use lose/loose loses/looses wrong that im starting to change my own use of it so people understand.

  11. Truth in the News

    The EU only evolved to make up for the loss of Colonies and Empire possessions
    by the main European Powers so they could make up for the economic loss, it
    actually emulates the actions of Bismark when he established the Greman State,
    now the Germans think they can apply it to Europe, since the British faught two
    Wars with the Germans no wonder they want out

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