“This is our chance to believe in ourselves”, says Boris Johnson. It is as though we, the British public, having just flicked over from the football in France, will be transposed from the stadium to the voting booth, waving our scarves and singing our songs. And perhaps that will happen. But what does that actually mean? Will that ‘belief’ stay with us once the votes are counted and we choose to exit the European Union. Will each of us devote even an hour of our day to converting that belief into any kind of action that works to re-establish the economic relations upon which our livelihoods and wellbeing will depend? No, we will not. Our day will be the same on the 24th June as it was on the 23rd. For some of us, there will be that same sense of post-match elation and optimism. For others, emptiness and despair. But both will fade.
We will go back to work, to study, to care for our children, and politics will disappear from our lives once again. Meanwhile, the responsibility for the implementation of our democratic will is to be left to a few men in Whitehall. No amount of British Bulldog spirit will help them, even if they had it. They will say, no doubt, that it is they who will ‘work every day’ to secure the future of our new ‘sovereign’ nation, so we don’t have to. And you can be certain that they will work assiduously, but it is not our future they work for. It is true that, eventually, they will re-establish trade, the economic shock will not last forever, ‘a way’ will be found. But these men will not represent us. They represent their own ambitions for public office, and the interests of those whose financial power enables those ambitions to be realised.
Under a conservative government, with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove at the helm, we can be certain of one thing: the further erosion of the checks and balances that protect the interests of we the public (and the worker) from those of international corporate capital. We already know that the conservatives plan to cut public services in order to negate the financial shock of leaving the EU.
Moreover, as Nick Harkaway emphasised recently, despite Leave’s apparent contempt for TTIP (the trade deal currently being negotiated between the EU and US), we will have far less financial clout alone and outside of the EU block. Thus, in our own negotiations, our leaders will have no option but accept terms which concede even more sovereign power to American corporations than was ever conceded to Brussels. The investor-state dispute mechanisms which are likely to be attendant to such a deal will mean that US companies can sue the government for ‘restricting trade’ through, for example, protecting national parks or public open space from development.
It is true that an outcome in favour of Brexit would not condemn us all to a lifetime of purgatory, casting us instantly into some kind of abyss. Indeed, that many of the older generation are financially comfortable enough to be immune to any tangible impacts has surely been one of the key challenges for the Remain campaign. But what of the post-baby boomers, the millennials, and their children and grandchildren? It is already apparent that todays young people will be the first generation ever to be poorer than their parents. Are we seriously suggesting that we will further risk their increasingly precarious futures on this empty, meaningless rationale of ‘believing in ourselves’? Surely it is true that the Brexit campaign has given us little more in terms the details of an actual plan! Belief, as any England football fan knows, will get us nowhere.