Hard Brexit is a bit like climate change.
Experts repeatedly warn about how dire things will get while, to all intents and purposes, life is as it was.
So far, nothing has really changed. The sky hasn’t fallen in. Chelsea still lead the Premiership – unfortunately. And my favourite bar in Ramsgate still does hideously large Sunday dinners for just £6.95.
Of course, some things have changed. The EU referendum has cut the working class-Left coalition that Labour relied on to be a national political force. There’s currently no sign that the party knows how to respond.
And then there’s Tory prime minister Theresa May going all Boris Yeltsin over the hard Brexit we could end up with.
Like climate change, the way this issue is playing out is a classic long-term game, in which the only real narrative is about the jockeying for positions as Article 50 is finally enacted.
Media march to hard Brexit
Reading the papers – particularly the right-wing press – and anyone would think Brexit has pretty much already happened.
Then there are those who are so angry with the political process that they can’t understand why hard Brexit hasn’t happened. To them, extricating ourselves from the world’s largest trading block is both clear-cut and a synch.
Listen to the BBC Question Time audience when Brexit is discussed and you can clearly see the issue’s educational dividing line. This programme alone confirms the research finding that support for Brexit is strongest among the country’s less educated.
Of course, that’s not to say intelligent people don’t support Brexit.
But it does show how the political and economic elite has complacently abandoned post-industrial Britain. Which also points to why the poison of the Murdoch press, Daily Mail and Express have filled the vacuum.
(I know it’s easy to make comparisons with Donald Trump’s election, but I bet education had a similar role to play there).
Reconnecting with the angry, skeptical, sub-university population in meaningful political discourse promises to be a very difficult task. Especially now as the government envisions our future with a belligerence that chimes so neatly with the self-serving, billionaire-owned press.
It’s very easy for Theresa May to talk tough now. But leaving the EU with no trade deal and instead rely on World Trade Organisation rules could be an economic catastrophe for Britain.
Imposition of unity
It’s also very easy to call for unity around an improbable vision of Britain standing alone, striking fantastic trade deals with the US, India and Australia. But that’s not likely to happen given the nature of the Brexit debate more than six months on.
Instead, we’re putting all our eggs in a hard Brexit basket, even though the referendum result was close and decided by just 37.4% of the 64.5m eligible voters. In its conceptualisation and debate, the referendum was a balls-up of monumental proportions, but there’s little sense of this as May assembles her negotiating position.
Brexit might be the best thing Britain could possibly have voted for. But we won’t know the true costs for a long time yet.
We haven’t seen the full inflationary impact, or the impact on jobs and our overall trading position. The early consequences of Brexit are only just starting to happen and we don’t know how far the corporate exodus will go.
Meanwhile, we allow the likes of the Daily Mail to perform its historic role as fascist cheerleader by accepting its attack on three senior judges for simply performing their jobs. (Again, there are parallels with Donald Trump and a multitude of tyrants contemptuous of an independent judiciary.)
And, to compound the problem, the institutional response to this hateful campaign has been pathetically weak. For instance, rather than defend the judges, Lord Chancellor Liz Truss has been a complete waste of space.
Whatever that future holds, we are letting an embittered and disengaged constituency fuel a divorce that is contentious at best.
The right-wing press will always do its rabble-rousing thing. But it would be good if some of our political leaders stopped playing to the cheap seats and put the whole country’s complex and contradictory interests first.
And that includes the 16.1m who voted Remain, as well as the millions of other who didn’t vote in the referendum.