How To Stop Brexit – And Make Britain Great Again by Nick Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This isn’t as much a book as much it is a pamphlet, a fact that Clegg himself readily acknowledges. If you wanted, you could probably read the whole thing in two hours, maybe less if you’re a fast reader. It is well written and referenced with sources which is a bonus. Nick Clegg writes eloquently dispelling misconceptions around Britian’s membership of the EU. It is a great shame, that these arguments weren’t shared during the flawed referendum of 2016.
I have to say that the author is overly sanguine. He says the silver lining of Brexit is that, the referendum has instilled a need to reform the EU for fear of further departures. Clegg says, it is likely that the EU will evolve into a satellite model, whereby member states will be organised into concentric circles with varying levels of alignment with the EU. A nice idea, though sadly this appears to have been ruled out by Michel Barnier. Clegg talks about why it is right to stop Brexit, namely the myriad of lies peddled by the Vote Leave campaign and its affiliates and also that democracy is not a one time event: people are allowed to change their minds in the face of new evidence, similar to buying a dodgy appliance and returning it later.
Examining the lies, it was the high priestess of the Tory party Margaret Thatcher herself, who was instrumental in creating the single market. Something which Brexit supporters deride, yet they idolize the Iron Lady. The author argues that Britain has held a position of great privilege and influence within the EU. The UK is not in the Schengen area, has a rebate, a veto, it is not in the Eurozone and it did not sign up to all 130 of the EUs Justice and Home Affairs laws. Far from being a vassal with no say. People often argue that, when we joined the EU in 1973, it has since morphed into a gargantuan, overarching, faceless, bureaucratic machine. They forget that throughout the decades that the UK has been setting the agenda for the policy changes that have led to the EU today. Something which domestic political parties have often boasted about in their manifestos (reform of common agricultural and fishing policies, cross border cooperation of foreign policy and terrorism, trade, expanding the EU to name a few).
On immigration, he says businesses have benefited from access to EU workers, who would otherwise face shortages of skills and labour. The change in local jobs and wage levels are small and they in fact make a net contribution through the taxes they pay. The UK was one of only three countries that did not delay free movement following EU expansion, which has led to greater immigration than in surrounding countries. So the government was the source of the so called ‘uncontrolled migration’ rather than the EU. All too often migration into the EU has been conflated with migration within the EU, largely thanks to populist opportunists. There is a design flaw within the EU: removing internal borders within the Schengen area while failing to fix eternal ones, is not working. Flaws in freedom of movement are due to failures of domestic government (open labour markets, no residence checks, universal access to healthcare), which can be alleviated by following examples in countries like Liechtenstein and Germany.
Dominic Cummins, a former government advisor, says he doesn’t think the referendum would have had the outcome it did, if they hadn’t lied about giving the NHS £350m per week on exiting the EU. They lie about being a grassroots anti-establishment operation, where they are actually backed by billionaire’s and come from positions of privilege themselves. There were also lies about Turkey joining the EU following a remain vote.
Later, he then sets out an impressive strategic action plan through ‘pressure, argument and passion’, of how to stop Brexit: i) Visit your MP monthly ii) Attend local party meetings iii) Attend party conference and table motions iv) write to Jeremy Corbyn v) If necessary walk away. On the Tory side: i) Join the party ii) Challenge Brexit MPs in remain seats iii) Vote in the leadership contest iv) Go to the party conference v) Write to Theresa May. More generally: Persuade 5 friends and neighbours, join a campaign group and use social media (e.g. Peoples Vote), mobilise with other volunteers, mobilise your union and demonstrate.
On making Britain great again, he’s talking about the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Rightly he says that things cannot stay the same in light of the Brexit vote, with reform to freedom of movement being a priority. Quite a bold proposal is a coalition of John Major and Mark Rutte negotiating Britain’s place in the concentric rings satellite model.
Nigel Farage hailed the vote for Brexit as a victory for the ‘little people, the real people…the ordinary, decent people’. A few months later Farage, a privately educated ex-City trader with a taste for a post-prandial glass of port, flew across the Atlantic to join President Trump at the billionaire’s victory party. There is a famous photo of the pair celebrating in front of one of Trump Tower’s gold-plated lift doors. The little people must have been just out of shot.
Desmond once explained his motivation: ‘I don’t know if we should be in [the EU] or not, but I don’t like being controlled by Brussels and these faceless people.’ He apparently prefers control by unelected newspaper proprietors and hedge-fund managers instead.
‘If it’s not delivered. there will be the most terrible damage to the political establishment.’ There you have it: the voice of the new Brexit elite worrying about the impact on the political establishment. Surely he, and everyone else, should be more worried about the damage being done to the country than to the reputation of the establishment?
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