I joined the final leg of the March to Leave from Fulham to Parliament Square today. I did so with a heavy heart. Parliament is unable to agree terms to leave the EU, but unwilling to leave without an agreement. That is currently the only way available to it to implement the people's decision. While it's not ideal, I don't fear it. We could save ourselves the severance payment agreed (for no good legal reason) by our Prime Minister. Every business I have inside information about is prepared for it and I have very little sympathy with any businesses so imprudent as not to be.
If we leave with no deal on April 12, negotiations on future relationships can begin in earnest with our trading partners, including the EU. They can be conducted – as they should be – by an independent British Government. Given the drafting of Article 50, which is designed to disadvantage a country giving notice to Leave, this was always likely to be the best interim outcome. I would have gone straight for it had I been in Mrs May's kitten heels, using the notice period entirely to prepare for a no deal exit and declining seriously to discuss the future relationship until those preparations were satisfactorily in place. Like those prudent business people in relation to their own affairs, my first concern would have been to prepare for the worst before aiming for the best.
I made my living negotiating agreements. I have many friends who did the same. We are all of the opinion that, had the UK taken this approach, we would have been spared the humiliation of watching our PM shuttle back and forth to the EU as a supplicant. Instead an orderly queue of the EU's five presidents (none elected) would have formed up outside Number 10.
I am now more concerned with the threats to our nation's democracy that Brexit has revealed than about Brexit itself. This morning I was so concerned that I told Mrs P the Second this march would probably be my last political act. I was despondent for the 17.4 million voters urinated on from a great height by our political class. I was angry at our far-worse-than-useless mainstream media which has vilified, smeared and defamed them for the last three years. I was fearful for all of us – Leave and Remain – whose future mode of government is at stake.
I am less concerned, upset and angry this evening. Why? I met my people. Not the savages the BBC and Guardian say they are but sensible British folk. I saw no extremists. I met no racists (in fact the marchers were diverse). We talked to each other as we marched; far more in sorrow and sincere concern than in anger. We even discussed our worries for our European neighbours in the chaos the mishandling of Brexit has caused. When provoked by Remain counter-protesters I feared that less temperate elements among us might give the media what they were loitering in the hope of filming. Instead we just made an "L" sign on our foreheads and chanted "Losers" at them. Even they (mostly) smiled.
I always knew in my heart that the Establishment media portrayal of Leave voters was just a succession of vile smears, but when you swim in a sea of lies it's hard not to get wet. Today did me a lot of good – and not just because of healthy exercise in beautiful sunshine.
As Nigel Farage said in Parliament Square, this is not about Brexit now, it's about "who we are". Yes, we have been sorely disappointed by our political class. They have sold us out and betrayed us but they have also taken the scales from our eyes. Those of us who have long said that, under an over-mighty state, unsavoury types are bound to be drawn to lording it over their fellow men while living on them as parasites were considered cynical at best and extreme at worst. Now all living generations have learned that we were, if anything, too kind in our assessment. Brexit has been an education and three charming Yorkshire ladies in the pub at lunchtime readily agreed with my prediction that the British people will not allow our discredited political class to talk down to us again.
They have been exposed as charlatans at best and idiots at worst.
It’s about democracy now. Political sophists have quibbled about what democracy really means in this context and I confess they had befuddled my thinking. I learned from the people I marched with today that— whatever it means — it’s not this. "They've cheated us", one lady told me and I think she spoke for many – including many decent Remainers prepared to abide by the majority decision. It’s not cricket to ignore the most significant popular vote in British history. It just isn't. Whether Britain will do better or worse economically outside the EU was not even discussed today. Instead we worried about saving our country whose legislators have shamefully turned their backs on us.
During his short speech in Parliament Square (not on the same stage, though the Guardian would like to deceive you, as Tommy Robinson and UKIP) Mr. Farage quoted (without attribution) the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis who said recently on Question Time that this is a treaty that:
"would only be signed by a nation defeated at war"
The marchers had already cheered the news that May's treaty had been rejected for a third (and surely a final) time. Farage promised that, if we didn't leave on the new date of April 12 (and he admitted he feared we would be betrayed yet again) that he would return to politics to fight the European Parliament elections. We are not going to give up, he told us and in the end, we are going to win. I hope he's right but my confidence is shaken. After all, I had never imagined Parliament's Remain majority would dare to defy the people as they have.
The options now are:
- We leave with no (finalised) deal on April 12, or
- The EU allows an extension on terms that will include our staging elections to their fig leaf of a pretend parliament and (probably) another referendum.
I believe Farage's new Brexit Party would win the ensuing European Parliament elections dramatically. So does he and he hopes the EU Council will fear that outcome sufficiently to refuse the extension. As for a second referendum he believes that Remainers disgusted by the Establishment assault on democracy would boost the Leave vote so that we would win with an increased majority.
After the march and before the speeches I adjourned to the pub with an agreeable chap I had walked the final miles with. We were joined by another chap up from Dorset. Both were business people. Both, like me, had (unlike most of our political class) actually engaged in international business. None of us were unduly concerned about leaving with no deal. Business, we agreed, is done in spite of government not because of it. It’s the politicians who are (a) in a mess and (b) – as always – vastly over-estimating their own economic importance.
One of my companions wryly observed that it might even be better for the country's economy if the Brexit saga dragged on for longer as it was preventing the idiot politicians from screwing other things up at their usual rate. In such company my faith returned. We Brits are ill-served by our politicians (who isn't?) but there's damn-all wrong with us as a nation – however bad we may look in the world's eyes right now.
Gentle readers, do you agree?