By Robert Tombs and cross-posted from Daily Telegraph
The most disturbing aspect of the Brexit debate is not the risk of traffic jams at Dover or possibly having to pay £7 every two years to visit our beloved Continent, but the anger, contempt and loathing that has erupted on both sides. Each blames the other. Yet the two are not equivalent. Brexiteers have insisted – sometimes, no doubt, in outspoken terms – that our political institutions and practices should be respected, and that national sovereignty as understood for centuries should be upheld. As Burke said of the Glorious Revolution, it was done not to overthrow but to defend “laws and liberties”.
Hard-line Remainers, in contrast, have been and are willing to push their campaign beyond legitimate politics as previously understood. First, they have encouraged foreign authorities to resist the policy of the UK, and have thereby done much to sabotage that policy. Second, they have attempted to delegitimise legal votes, using arguments that would take us back 150 years and more – essentially, that ordinary people are incapable of taking a major national decision and that they must therefore be overruled.
I am a member of a group of academics called Briefings for Brexit, and we have been reflecting on this “Remainer Revolt”. We have noted that civil servants detest disruption. We have suggested that the issue has become one of “identity politics”, with vehement Remainers motivated less by affection for the EU than by contempt for those they think support Brexit – above all the white working class. We have identified Tory Remainers with those who think that all that really matters in politics is delivering material benefits to the masses.
Yet I felt something was still missing. The penny dropped when I read the vocal Remainer and former MP Matthew Parris in the latest Spectator. For him, Brexit means “trusting the people”: “I don’t,” he writes. “Never have and never will.” Rejecting the idea of “an unseen bond between parliament and people”, he sees its job as curbing “the instincts of the mob”. The enlightened elite must govern by subterfuge if necessary…
Continue reading the article (unfortunately, behind DT paywall)