A favourite theme for hard-line Brexiteers is to accuse those who voted to remain and who push for a second referendum to be held of being traitors to Great Britain and of some sort of betrayal. This is utter nonsense. It’s not true and actually it’s bloody offensive, nearly as offensive as being labelled a Nazi because you don’t agree with Brexit. It’s also really worrying that the political discourse is being reduced to this.
It’s not just something we’ve seen in the aftermath of the referendum either. We have seen it in American politics too. Ever since Donald Trump walked into the White House, anyone who has been even slightly critical of his presidency has been attacked, lambasted, vilified and accused of being traitors to their country. It is nothing more than an attempt to simultaneously polarise the political landscape and whip up fervour within their base of support. Because the people who do this are those who benefit when the electorate is heavily divided by an issue. When everything is nice and steady and people are earning money and moving up in the world, the support for more divisive ideas dwindles. Once events turn for the worse, voters look to more extreme alternatives to try to turn their and the country’s fortunes around. That’s how we end up with Donald Trump and Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg gaining more prominence. I see Trump being elected as something akin to when Richard Nixon was elected in 1968. After the progressive ideas put forward by Kennedy and carried out by Johnson, the hippy counterculture, Woodstock, protests against the Vietnam war, young men publicly burning their draft cards, the older generations of Americans voted, almost in protest, for a candidate they thought would help to take their country back from the destructive forces that might tear it apart, or so it seemed to them.
Now I am not saying that support for Brexit is an extremist view. Supporting Brexit does not make you a right wing extremist racist. You simply want to leave the European Union, not ethnically cleanse Great Britain. But labelling someone a Nazi or a traitor to their country because they happen to disagree with you on this one subject is like labelling someone a Nazi and a traitor to mankind because they didn’t like Avengers: Endgame but did like Justice League. Ridiculous. They continually speak of not betraying the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit. I’m sorry, what about the 59 million others who call this island home? Wouldn’t it be a betrayal of those people’s trust and livelihoods if Brexit was achieved through lying, financial skullduggery and potential interference from foreign powers?
Betrayal and traitor have proper, official definitions. Neither applies in this case. Betraying your country’s security or its people is a crime. It’s called treason. And those who are calling for a second referendum are not traitors to Brexit because they never believed in the cause or principle of Brexit. You cannot betray something you never believed in. This issue is a matter of personal, political opinion, one that will affect all of us, but where each of us is entitles to their opinion, whatever that may be.
This needs to stop. The issue of Brexit was already polarising before. That’s why Theresa May now will be out of a job in a couple of weeks and we find ourselves yet again on the cusp of leaving the EU on 31st October with no deal. No meaningful discussion will be had and the gridlock will not end if the incessant name calling, jibes, insults, accusations and insinuations do not end, on both sides. Our politicians need to step outside of their cosy little support bubbles where everyone parrots their own statements back at them and work together to try and give some sort of shape and direction to what the bloody hell is going to happen next.