“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
― Noam Chomsky
Boris Johnson’s Government was elected on the promise to ‘Get Brexit Done.’
They defined Brexit Day as 31 January 2020 and held a party to celebrate. Officials were instructed not to talk about Brexit after that day. And the leading Brexiters have been celebrating the fact that the sky has not fallen down, and wondering aloud whether Remainers might not be rather embarrassed by the UK’s post-Brexit success.
But have we really left?
Not really. We have negotiated a formal exit from the UK into a transition period. But that transition period differs from EU membership in only one significant respect: we no longer have a voice.
We still have no idea what will follow that period (or even if it will really end on 31/12/2020 as currently promised). And there are enormous challenges the Government has to face to avoid an outcome that would be a disaster for the country, though not for all of Johnson’s backers.
So far, the government’s most visible strategy has been to unleash a new propaganda campaign whose key messages are likely to be:
• Brexit has been “successfully accomplished”; and
• If Brexit fails it will be the fault of the EU.
Brexit has been “successfully accomplished”
Here is a thread from one of the architects of Brexit, Daniel Hannan (who was also one of those who promised before the referendum that no one was talking of leaving the single market):
Hannan knows full well that we have only entered the transition period, and that therefore none of the risks he has listed should be expected at this point. He also knows that some of the points on his list were made up by him (“world war”) rather than part of the Remain argument. But he also knows that many of his followers do not know that.
He is also probably aware of the costs of Brexit uncertainty so far, but again knows that most of his followers are not. And he is keen to cement the narrative of a successful BrexIt quickly so that any problems which materialise later can be blamed on other factors.
In reality, all that has been achieved so far is to turn the UK into exactly the kind of ‘vassal state’ that the Brexiters always claimed we must never be. In 2018, another leading Brexiter, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said loudly and clearly that it was unacceptable for the UK to become a vassal state during a transition period. He has now deleted his tweets on the subject.
If Brexit fails it will be the fault of the EU
At the same time, the real complexity of negotiating a deal with the EU in what is left of the year is beginning to dawn. The risk of failure is becoming clearer. And Parliament and the Courts can no longer be blamed for lack of progress.
But there is always the EU. The line now being taken by Number 10 is that the EU is reneging on its agreements with us when it insists that the European Court of Justice still holds sway.
In fact, the Withdrawal Agreement Johnson signed explicitly provides for a continued role for the ECJ. If anyone is trying to renege, it is Johnson himself.
We can expect a great deal more of this kind of propaganda from the pro-Brexit sections of the media.
Brexit has not been done: we are on D-333. And there is still everything to play for in getting a sensible deal. 333 days is not long – we must make sure they are not wasted.
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