Jayne Dowle: Ordinary people being forgotten by self-interested Brexit battlers

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There are many, many questions about Brexit, but there’s one I’d like answering please: what exactly is the “national interest”? I ask because I’ve heard it said so many times, especially by politicians attempting to justify their stance on the biggest decision to affect the United Kingdom in more than a generation.

In the febrile atmosphere of Westminster, with MPs gossiping and ministers flitting in and out of Downing Street cloaked in secrecy, do you think that they actually, really do have the “national interest” at heart?

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking outside the House of Parliament in London after he handed in his letter of no-confidence in Theresa May.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking outside the House of Parliament in London after he handed in his letter of no-confidence in Theresa May.

Or is it entirely self-interest? I may be watching and listening to the wrong news programmes, but I don’t think I’ve heard a single minister articulate any concern for us. In the chaos of the last week or so, has a single one of them stood up and addressed ordinary people’s anxiety about the economy, employment, or how we might travel to, from and around Europe in coming years?

What about those of us who run businesses with ties to the European Union? What of those students who have chosen a university in the Netherlands because tuition fees are so much more affordable over the North Sea? What of the couples with dual nationality who might face the prospect of living apart because their passports no longer give them the same rights to remain in the UK?

Has any senior politician actually opened their eyes and looked at the bigger picture, and thought not just of their own prospects, but those of us all bobbing about in our leaky boat?

So closed is their circle, so tight is their bubble, their world has shrunk to a tiny, tiny thing where all that matters to each player is that they win.

The great irony of course is that our society has never been more democratic, or open. We are tolerant to a fault. No matter how extreme our political and religious beliefs might be, no matter how opinionated we are about gender politics or veganism or the environment, our voices can speak.

We still have a free press, despite what some might think. Social media allows debate to flourish. It isn’t always pretty or especially erudite, but individuals are allowed to say what they think and argue their point without fear of imprisonment or torture.

Yet on this matter of Brexit we are held captive like flies caught in amber. Shut out and voiceless. Thousands of Remain supporters marched through the streets of London just a few short weeks ago. They may as well have been marching on a planet somewhere round the other side of Mars for all the difference it made.

We have no say, because as many politicians have reminded us, as a nation we voted in a referendum and by a very narrow majority, opted in favour of Leave.

So, leave we must. And in those politicians tearing each other to pieces as we look on, powerless and horribly rapt, we must put our trust. It’s a big ask of a nation, to be honest.

Was Dominic Raab, in whom the Prime Minister had placed great trust by appointing him Brexit Secretary, really acting in “the national interest” when he decided that the best thing to do in the circumstances would be to step down? Was Esther McVey, and all the junior ministers who decided to make a stance, doing the same?

And as for hard-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. I won’t waste words, but was he acting in the national interest when he savaged the Prime Minister in the House of Commons and demanded a vote of no confidence in her leadership?

Forget the prospect of a second referendum. While ever she remains Prime Minister, I wager Mrs May will stick to her guns. But if she was to fall, all hell would break loose. Have these people, the destroyers, no comprehension of the chaos they could plunge us into if their plotting was to reach its logical conclusion – an emergency general election?

They may argue that they are men and women of principle, but at a time when their country is in peril, they behave like nothing more than playground bullies. And like all bullies, they have no end game ready, only the obliteration of the object of their attack. Hard-Brexit, soft-Brexit, deal or no deal, do those who seek to destroy Mrs May’s position have a secret plan up their sleeve which would make it all OK? I think not.

And imagine the scenario if the Government did fall and Labour took power, possibly through a shaky arrangement with the SNP to maintain its majority. With Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, we would be in an even worse mess. No Brexit deal. And nothing in return from him that makes sense or would be workable, given that he backs Leave and the majority of his MPs want to Remain.

What can we do then, faced with such a nightmarish smorgasbord of alternative scenarios? We must take on the mantle of the national interest ourselves. And in the words of the man who kicked off this entire holy mess, keep calm and carry on.