Brexit - A National Brain Fog

Prime Minister Cameron has returned to London with a 'deal' designed to avoid Brexit. The mood in Britain strikes us as 'unimpressed'. The Tory Party was clearly unhappy.

The media were largely lukewarm at best and oppositional at worst (excepting the Financial Times which speaks for the business interest in Europe). One of the issues may be large-scale business' inability to persuade the population to trust its judgement in favour of the Prime Minister.

Nor is the disenchantment in the UK lessening as time passes. It is not that there is much direct protest outside the Tory Right, just an odd reserve even from those you might expect to be trumpeting the 'triumph'. The reception in the House of Commons was muted. Perhaps Eurosceptics believe that Cameron can be left to dig his own grave for a short while. The Europhiles seem embarrassed, knowing that too much attention to the deal may show just how weak it is. In the middle, there is a certain disappointment and some disdain at the mouse that roared.

There is no element within the British political establishment that seems secure of its ground. We know that the Crown (the State) wants to remain within the European Union and that the European Union wants the Crown (the United Kingdom) to remain within the Union. We also know that neither can simply command the appropriate arrangements. Many European countries will have electorates irritated by further concessions and the British Government faces a Referendum as early as June of this year where the pitch is going to be one of 'trust us' or fear the consequences.

The betting would normally be that, after some ups and downs and a few scares, the Government would fairly easily win the Referendum. Britain would remain in the European Union as a semi-detached member on paper but actually as integrated as it is now in reality. A lot of the pitch for the middle ground on sovereignty and migration is pure bluff if you have time to look at the detail and most people do not. And the Government should be helped by the utter organisational disarray in the Eurosceptic camps - farce is being too kind at this point in history.

But the Government remains nervous and with good reason because, outside the civil service, the ideological fanatics and large-scale business, there is no enthusiasm in the country for the European project even amongst those forces such as the Left and the Celts who are committed to it politically. This lack of enthusiasm is compounded by a wider lack of trust in Government. The political elite is fully aware that populist surprises have emerged quickly and unseen in the Labour Party, both main US political parties and in Europe within the last year.

If your life depended on it, you would bet on a win for Remain based on a confused public facing a fairly coherent cross-party elite consensus in support of the European Union, helped by the self-immolating behaviour of a bunch of right-wing narcissists on the Leave side. Cameron wants a quick vote for good reason. The vote does not lie with the elite but with the mass. The mass seems to be getting a bit tired of being told what to think and believe, fully aware that things are going a little awry out there. There could be an upset yet.


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