If any proof were needed of the Leave campaign’s main raison d’être, you only have to look at Boris Johnson’s latest column in the Telegraph.
In a bid for the keys to Number 10 that has been on the cards since he first stepped out in front of camera crews to announce his epiphanic volte face on Europe a few months ago, he sets out a scenario that includes a relationship with the EU that appears remarkably similar to the one we have now.
The most startling pledge is that, as PM, he will maintain our membership of the single market. Hardly surprising given that the economic impact of Thursday’s vote has reverberated through the markets and continues to shred what little hope there is that we can avert another recession in the coming months.
Even that great elder statesman of British-bulldogism, Nigel Farage, has announced that we’re headed for another downturn
, although of course he says any connection with us slamming the lid to the EU cookie jar firmly down on our own bruised fingers is purely coincidental.
What Johnson doesn’t seem to highlight in his column is the salient point that membership of the single market carries with it the requirement to allow free movement between member states.
In what seems to be a muddled version of the Norway option, he appears to be proposing we accept what amounts to the current status quo on border controls. Considering this was painted as one of the core evils of our EU membership, one has to wonder at his true motivations.
The future that Johnson seems to see is a Europe who will be our friends with benefits. Except without most of the benefits. As many predicted before the vote, we’ll be left having to accept many of the EU’s regulations and pre-requisites, with no say in how they’re administered.
His apparent insouciance over something, that prior to the vote, he was well and truly out of his pram about is revealing. Proof, if any were needed, that his involvement in the campaign was little more than a cynical shortcut to the premiership. In short, he’s gambled all our futures on his own ambition.
Taken with clarification from other key members of the Leave campaign that the apocryphal £350m a week that we are supposed to be saving from abandoning Europe will probably not be spent on the things they claimed it would, it’s looking like much of the argument for Brexit was based, at best, on ambitious kite flying and, at worst, on outright lies.
There’s been understandable concern from many areas that were in receipt of large amounts of EU subsidy that the government will commit to match this funding in a post EU Britain. A situation that should henceforth form part of any dictionary definition of self abuse, considering areas such as Sunderland, Cornwall and most of Wales voted in favour of sawing off the branch they were all standing on.
With both main Westminster parties in total disarray, it appears that Boris is trying to ever so carefully put the genie back in the bottle. Like the old saying goes – ‘be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it’.
In his usual style he throws about plenty of verbal chaff, talking about “destroying coils of EU bureaucracy” which sounds rather poetic whilst giving very little indication of a real plan. A plan that we now know was never written, because in his heart of hearts he never expected to need one.
The marked reluctance on behalf of what’s left of the government to trigger Article 50 seems to suggest they’re also well and truly out of their depth. But unfortunately we’re all in the water with them now.
It’s worth noting that since he became heir apparent to the keys of the kingdom, Boris’s characteristic bombast has been decidedly absent. Is this him trying on the clothes of senior statesman, or does he realise that now he’s rocked the boat, his life jacket has quite a few holes in it?
I spent the best part of two days on social media asking one simple question of those who voted leave : “What’s the plan?”. There was very little clarity beyond whistling in the dark and jingoistic fervour.
Plenty of people told me to ‘get over it’ and accept democracy. The overall proposition was that this was akin to a TV talent competition and the Remainers had ‘lost’. Yet none of the winners were able to tell me what their prize actually was. Very few seemed to see my concern about our future as anything other than sour grapes.
There was a repeated mantra that we don’t have to do anything in haste. That there was plenty of time to take stock. A quaint belief that the politicians would guide us through the uncertainty. Uncertainty they triggered by their own inability to guide us in the first place.
As a growing number of people publicly and privately express regret at having voted to leave, it seems that to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive. Especially when you’re on a mystery tour that may not be as magical as you were led to believe.
Yes we can delay any formal moves towards leaving the union pretty much indefinitely , but in the meantime markets will fall, investment will stall, prices and unemployment will rise and uncertainty and instability will eat away at what’s left of our deceptively shaky economy.
But that was all just ‘project fear’ and Boris has announced that we’re done with all that fearmongering now.
He may well be right, but if he’s to become our new undemocratically imposed head bureaucrat, we may also be about to realise that reality can be much more frightening than even our wildest imaginings.