John Maynard Keynes famously said “If the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” The facts post referendum are considerably changed from what any of us expected, pro or con. It may be wisdom after the event, but I have been dismayed by a succession of unpleasant surprises. First, the outburst of anti-immigrant violence, then the weakening of the pound. It is now lower than when the Euro was launched in 1999, even though the Euro also appears to have been weakened by the Brexit vote. Both have dropped against the dollar. Investors in industry have expressed doubts. Martin Wolf provides a comprehensive account of the damage done in the Financial Times
But two unforeseen facts loom larger than the others. Nicola Sturgeon’s conference announcement last week was hardly a surprise. It is reasonable for Scotland to suggest a fresh independence vote in view of Scotland having voted ‘Remain’ .
Once again the polls got it wrong. They thought the referendum was a close call. It seem generally accepted that the areas which voted 70% ‘Leave’ did so in response to the slogan ‘Take back control’. The anti-immigrant backlash in those areas indicates that the main issue they thought they were taking control of was our borders: immigration.
Purely in passing, regular readers will be aware that I believe a Europe –wide Basic income is a better way of dealing with this issue.
What did not figure in the referendum campaign, at least not in those areas which voted ‘Leave’, was that Britain will have to choose between immigration, and the Single market. If goods can move freely, then so must people. Why should the rest of the EU allow Britain to have it both ways? The promises which produced the 3.8% Brexit majority will have to be broken. I think those who thought they were taking back control need to know this.
There is still much bitterness on the losing side, which is being lampooned by some of the victors. But just as the worst homophobe is a gay in denial, I wonder if some of those defending the result most shrilly, are subconsciously aghast at the enormity of what they have wreaked.
I cannot put my finger on it, but I thought Boris Johnson sounded uncharacteristically conciliatory rather than triumphant when the result was announced. But to me the biggest give-away was Farage’s ‘Job done’ resignation. If anyone should have thought out all the ramifications, and been able to come forward with answers to what the rest of us did not expect, it was him.
Even before the result, former Prime Minister John Major, hardly a hothead, accused the ‘Leave’ campaign of lying. On the contrary, I am willing to assume that everyone acted in good faith. Telling Brexiteers that they are either liars or idiots will just make them defend their position all the more forcibly. They need an escape route: I did not foresee any of the ‘cons’ I mention. Why should they? On that basis some of those who argued ‘Leave’ may follow Keynes’ advice. If any of them do, what next?