On Twitter there’s been a lot of disparaging comments about a certain recent strand of Leaver sentiment, the sentiment that says that the spirit that got us through World War II will get us through any problems to do with a No Deal Brexit. Remainers sniff and huff about this. What’s shooting at Nazis in trenches got to do with complex modern trade negotiations and international law treaties, they say. Apples and oranges. Even clever and admirable soft-Leavers like Kristian Niemitz adopt this view.
They’re wrong. They’re missing the point. The World War II-spirit Leavers are right.
Suppose some things do go terribly wrong with a No Deal Brexit. (I should point out here that if anything does go wrong in such a scenario, the cause is the government’s woeful preparations for a No Deal, not the No Deal itself. As I’ve been saying ever since the referendum, the government should have said to the EU straight away that we’re completely out, so let’s now sort out any problems areas in the two years we have.)
Suppose, for example, that some of the very unlikely doomsday scenarios, like planes not able to fly in and out of Britain, really do happen. Not that I think they will, even with a No Deal Brexit, but let’s indulge the doomsayers and suppose that some of them do. Suppose no planes or ships can get in or out of Britain.Or, rather, suppose that flying or boating to Europe isn’t able to happen for a while, because there’s no reason why the UK would stop any planes or ships coming in, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t still fly from the UK to, say, Australia (even if some routes have to be modified).
It may be true that the putting together of a hasty treaty to try to solve such a terrible situation as soon as possible would require more in the way of expertise in the relevant areas of law and international aviation systems, rather than, say, knowledge of how to keep a Lee Enfield in good condition, but the more important question would be, how would we, the British public, cope? Would we go to pieces and all have nervous breakdowns and just hide under our beds for the rest of our lives wailing that the state and the elite must run everything as they see fit from now on? Well, no. We’d be incandescent with rage (the Conservatives and the civil service would probably be screwed forever as a result), and a lot of people would suffer financially (especially people who work in aviation travel and related industries, and anyone who’s booked a European holiday), but we would cope. Just as we did when… let’s see when was it? Oh, that’s right. World War II.
It’s true that the British people are not what they were back then. So I agree that not everyone will cope. All the snowflakes will hide under their beds for the rest of their lives demanding that the state and the elite must run everything as they see fit from now on, although that’s pretty much what they do all the time anyway. All the Guardianiastas and everyone who works at a University will scream and shout that the state and the elite must run everything as they see fit from now on, although that’s also pretty much what they do now anyway. All these types will blame the Leavers, even though it was the Remainers in government and the civil service who were in charge, and who caused this.
But the rest of us will cope. We’ll holiday in Britain for a while. We’ll put up our relatives who worked in the airline industry and who’ve lost their house because of the malice of the Remainers and the EU (who were egged on by the Remainers). We’ll donate to charity. Sacrifices will have to be made. But we’ll make those sacrifices gladly, because of the greater prize that we have our eyes on, which is independence from the EU. The agreements will eventually be struck, even with the incompetents in charge (nervousness about lampposts can concentrate the mind wonderfully), and in the meantime, we’ll seethe and plan our revenge, but most of all we’ll cope.
It will help that an even greater prize that we’ll have our eyes on will be more independence from the mandarins of Whitehall, because they will not recover if they allow any such disastrous scenario to happen. It would also hasten the end of the EU. If the EU banned British flights coming into the EU, while Britain allowed European flights to come into Britain, it would damage the EU’s reputation so badly that I doubt that even that famously hard-to-kill institution would survive for too many years afterwards.
I don’t think any of this will actually happen, though. Personally I think that a stitch-up is nigh. But that’s a topic for another post.
Update: This article by Jake Berry, although it’s a bit of a puff-piece, is on my wavelength.