The politicians conducting Brexit negotiations are as ill-informed and ignorant as the rest of the population
British attitudes to international affairs have changed greatly in the past half century and the current plans to leave the European Union represent a crucial element of that change. Those plans also reflect British attitudes to immigration, which have become ever more hostile and reactionary.
The whole business has not been handled well. The vote on Brexit is a good example of this. It was based to a large extent on ignorance. Our politicians did not take the steps they should have taken to ensure that voters knew, and understood, what is involved.
I was not at all keen on the idea of the referendum, but I was generally positive about the implications of the principle of consulting people about how their country is run.
As I look at the way the nation has changed, however, I feel much less positive. The vote for Brexit was in my view a disaster, not least because the information about what would be involved was scanty and imprecise. It still is, and doubts about it are growing, even among those who voted in favour (mostly, in my opinion, from ill-informed views and ignorance).
The discussions and negotiations are continuing, but one does not have to be too much of a cynic to believe that the politicians conducting them are as ill-informed and ignorant as the rest of the population. Clearly, you may argue, I am a cynic, and I cannot gainsay that. Why have I become cynical? I always had a critical approach to politics, but it was, I truly believe, based on the feeling that in general, developments brought in their train improvements.
The EU is a good case in point. When we had moved away from being a colonial power — a move for which I had been strongly in favour — we clearly needed a new set of links. The EU was the natural choice. The continent of Europe is our neighbour. Like us, it was developing. We were obvious members.
Of course, not everything developed smoothly. It rarely does; however, we have been in a position to be able to influence developments. Britain, in fact, has been in a strong position in Europe.
The implementation of Brexit, negotiations for which continue to be vague, will certainly change that. We shall inevitably be on the sidelines. That will give pleasure to many of our European neighbours, who will be happy to see the U.K.’s influence diminish. Within the country, I predict that many of the pro-Brexiteers will grow ever more depressed and disappointed. My cynical reaction is that that is no one’s fault but our own. That does not make it better, but it is a source of pleasure to me, as someone who has always taken a positive view of politics.
The writer is an Emeritus Fellow and former Vice President of Wolfson College, Cambridge University