UK muzzles Brexit critics

By Joe Gill

Amid the insanity that passes for Brexit commentary in the UK, there are people who know what they are talking about.

Chris Patten is one of those heavyweight UK politicians who has the scars on his back from decades of high-level politics, and diplomacy on behalf of ‘her majesty’s government’. He led the negotiations with China over Hong Kong, was a stellar EU commissioner and is a grandee of the Conservative Party.

Last week, in a House of Lords speech, he gave a withering assessment of the Brexit process. Instead of relying on clichés about the stiff upper lip or the bulldog mentality, Mr Patten surgically removed the reasons for leaving the EU with clinical preciseness, using facts and figures.

The much-referenced line-up of countries gagging to do deals with the UK is dismissed concisely. India and South Korea, two major countries outside the EU that Brexiteers hope will deliver new trade deals, have strong vested interests in doing no such thing without major UK compromises.

India will demand more access for its emigrants, in exchange for access to its markets. Imagine how that will travel with those who have a penchant for Union Jack trousers.

People who are proud of their citizenship of the UK and who have admirable career records should be loudly campaigning against Brexit. Anyone voicing a view from Ireland is shot down by that section of the UK media that is hunting in packs against anyone who dares question Brexit.

We must hope that those voices of reason in the British establishment become more influential in the coming weeks and months to blunt the departure from the EU.

Businesses have to speak, too, particularly the SMEs that employ hundreds of thousands, which are in the heartland of Conservative politics and have the hard facts about how Brexit threatens their EU input costs and export markets.

The UK is proximate to Ireland, not just geographically, but culturally and socially. It is a large market and the 49% who opposed Brexit contain people who want to remain Europeans.

Even the 51% who voted for Brexit must include people who regard the likes of Chris Patten and John Major as true sons of Britishness. Those voices could yet induce seismic change in UK politics.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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