The upcoming election is an opportunity to negotiate Brexit

We’re going to war – Conservative politician Michael Howard said so. As if we hadn’t got enough on our national plate, it is apparently OK to suggest we should go to war with Spain, our favourite holiday destination.

I would hazard to suggest that this was the high point in the absurdity that has filled politics in the past year, but extreme claims like this are not just made by ailing former leaders. Theresa May herself thinks the European elite are purposefully trying to meddle in our upcoming election. The Conservatives have been steadily ramping up their attacks on the EU in a precarious attempt to strengthen their hand in upcoming negotiations, a hand that is clearly weak. The idea that the EU will treat a country who has threatened its very stability and existence with any generosity is clearly mistaken.

The likelihood of a disastrous Brexit has only grown since it became clear that the Government’s intent is to keep none of its perks and pay none of its costs.But these violent attacks are not so much the frightened actions of a cornered animal as a calculated move to conceal the Government’s intentions by claiming the ‘voice of the people’ as a mantle against whichever shifting enemy they choose. The Conservatives have long appropriated socialistic rhetoric on championing the interests of the working public, but this has been taken to a whole new degree.

Those who in any form oppose their version of Brexit are thus standing in the way of the ‘people’s will’, and must be disregarded. Rhetorical escalation is a strategic part of a broad ideological attack on both our relationship with the EU and the orientation of the state itself.
Brutal cuts to public services have shown they are intent on pushing through a comprehensive deconstruction of welfare, all under the guise of the monolithic national interest. The EU is just the first among a multiplicity of these enemies.

Media voices are deeply complicit in this, and have been pushing anti-immigrant sentiment for years. Judges are “enemies of the people” for the wild suggestion that democratic process be followed; only in dystopian fiction does the dictator call to ‘crush the saboteurs’, as the Daily Mail did recently.

It is the greatest irony that a media that claims there is a free speech crisis on university campuses is the very body attacking debate on the most important decision in a generation. We should never lose sight of the real and concrete dangers this is creating: hate crimes have surged since last June. Under the guise of the people’s will, a hardline, isolationist Brexit is being hurtled forward with little regard for its consequences. In the process, any legitimate scrutiny is crushed. The very bedrock of democracy is debate, but this is increasingly being dismissed as obstructive to the unbridled will of the people. The referendum gave the government a mandate to leave the EU – but this by no means justifies the unchecked ideological radicalism that the Tories are intent on.

Next month May is seeking a blank cheque for her reconstruction of the state by vilifying any who stands in her warpath. But winning a vote does not mean unmitigated power. The upcoming election is being painted as a foregone conclusion, but it is critical to resist this artificial discourse on Britain’s future.

We must challenge the false dichotomy of  ‘Brussels versus Britain’, and fight for our own say in how Britain will redefine itself for generations to come – no matter how big a majority, no party has a monopoly on this.

Image: Garry Knight/Wikimedia Commons

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