Brexit, the dominating story for the past five years, is fundamentally a bad idea. An idea based on lies, corruption and resentment. It’s created catastrophic levels of division, anger and blame, yet there seems to be very little reward, with ‘Happy British Fish’ apparently being the main one.
Despite this, Brexit has happened and, with an increasingly right-wing, nationalist government in power for presumably the next three years, that’s unlikely to be reversed any time soon. As a result, we need to look forward and realise there is a better future ahead.
The arguments in favour of moving on are undeniably clear. Britain is better in Europe. It would be better for jobs, businesses and workers’ rights. It would be better for our environment, our trade and even our defence. Furthermore, it would be better for Britain’s place in the world, as it would allow us to create the global changes that are so desperately needed on issues such as poverty and climate change. Changes that can only be achieved through nations working together towards a common goal. As a result of these arguments, the case for rejoining immediately is understandable but now is not the time to be fighting that fight.
The country needs proof that Brexit is bad for Britain, that those who voted for it were largely mislead and that the orchestrators of Brexit were nothing more than corrupt, petulant frauds, craving attention. For that to happen, time is needed. If we were to have the referendum on rejoining now, the risk is that, again, Britain in Europe would lose. We are not yet ready to have that fight. The parties most likely to support rejoining are, at the moment, divided and distracted. Pro-Brexit parties and interests are still largely dominant in government, parliament and the media and the full effects of Brexit have not yet been witnessed.
If any attempt at rejoining is to be made, it needs to have almost guaranteed success. Failure will cause the confidence of the Brexit ringleaders to become overwhelming, right-wing media organisations to become all-consuming and belief in nationalism, exceptionalism and xenophobia to consolidate and grow. All of this is why we need time. Time for the disadvantages of Brexit to become explicit, for citizens to realise the perpetrators were lying and for a new movement of internationalist, co-operative and determined people to rise and unite.
We’re starting to see this occurring in some aspects of British society, most notable from people working in some of the industries hit by the initial impact of Brexit – for example, exports to the UK from the EU have fallen by 68% – but if the campaign to rejoin is to be successful, this movement can’t be the minority. It must be the majority. Given the kind of government and mainstream media we currently have, it must be the overwhelming majority if we’re to have any chance of defeating the forces of nationalism and rejoining our European partners. We need time to unite.
Make no mistake, though: this is possible and one day, we will rejoin. The presidency of Joe Biden, whether that be for one term or two, represents a great opportunity. It has shown other nations, including us, what can be achieved when a grand coalition of people from all walks of life, of all different classes, colour and age, unite for a single purpose. Biden’s campaign has demonstrated how powerful the idea of a country returning to the world stage, with the goal of making the world a better place, can be.
Most importantly, for those wanting a Britain back in Europe, it has made clear that nationalism, isolationism, xenophobia and partisanship can be overturned. Think how different Britain would be and how different our futures could be if that were to happen here. Think of what Britain could achieve if it was back on the world stage, in Europe, working with America based on a true Special Relationship, rather than a false one. That’s the idea we need to capture and campaign on.
Back on the world stage and working with our allies, partners and friends, the next four years could be a period of opportunity for Britain. We could work towards new, stronger climate commitments, reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for millions across the globe, creating treaties and alliance to strengthen the security and defence of our nation with goal of a more peaceful world. We could change the world for good but only if we lead by example.
This is why Britain, in the end, will rejoin Europe. One day we will have our Biden Inauguration moment, when millions of people will choose to unite for peace rather than chaos, internationalism rather than isolationism and for decency rather than corruption. It will happen. Yet in order for it to happen, on the sole issue of Brexit, there needs to be a period of reckoning; for people to come together by recognizing each other’s failings, for people to agree to work together for a better future and for people to become determined that we shall never go back along the Brexit path.
A period of reckoning for our nation to unite.