I recall many years ago discussing an industrial conflict with someone who is now a senior trade union leader. Sure I can get our people “up a palm tree”, he said. But then I have to know how to get them back down again afterwards. This common sense advice was not taken by the Brexiteers. They and their media friends whipped up British citizens into an apoplexy over the EU and immigration, suggesting that if they vote Leave all the things they dislike about the EU (and maybe about modern life more generally) will disappear, while all they like can be retained. And they won a small but clear majority in the referendum.
It is exhilarating to win: to sit up in the palm tree, survey the turmoil below and feel a sense of empowerment. After a while though, a palm tree is in uncomfortable place. It’s easy to poke holes in the status quo. It’s easy to promise people the moon (assuming one has the requisite pragmatic attitude to telling the truth). But now the Leave camp must lead both its supporters and the British people as a whole down from the palm tree. The problem is there is no ladder. More fundamentally there is no clarity whether to go North, South, East or West of the tree.
So far all the Bexiteers have managed to do is to own up that many promises will remain unfilled. But that will have to change soon. [Read more…]