THE BLOG

Trump Holds A Mirror Up To Brexit Britain

22/11/2016 12:59

There is no more symbolic an image of 2016 than the picture of Donald Trump and a gloating Farage standing in front of Trump's gold-plated doors, like a grotesque modern-day version of Churchill, Truman and Stalin at Potsdam.

Theirs is the face of the new "special relationship".

Two people with no programme or policies worthy of the name, united by the size of their egos and the depth of their bigotry. Both describe themselves as "anti-establishment". Both have campaigned, and won, on a platform of open xenophobia - stoking, then harnessing, anger and prejudice. Both have also lied and lied again.

There are, of course, many and complex factors behind the rise of both. But to explain it as a revolt of the "have-nots" against globalisation, or the failure of "liberalism", is wrong, and simply plays into Trump and Farage's hands. Most low-income voters in the USA actually voted for Hillary, and Trump got plenty of votes from the well-off: a pattern which is not dissimilar to that of the EU referendum.

At heart, this is about who we are, and what we stand for, as a society.

Reflection and critical thinking are perhaps not very fashionable in a fast-paced world where false news on social media shapes our view of the world much more than real news .

But our society is built on values, even if we take them for granted. These values, which include equality, fairness, justice and inclusivity, have made British society what it is today. They are not, however, exclusive to Britain, but shared across Europe.

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that the EU is

founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.

Read that paragraph again.

Is there anything in there that is "un-British"? Is there anything that is offensive, or objectionable? Are these not the very same values that underpin the foundations of British society?

Ironically, the UK is in fact the only EU Member State, aside from Poland, to have opted out of the Charter - and that was well before the EU referendum. All EU Member States are nonetheless required to be signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is but a European version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is what defines and unites us as Europeans. That's not something to be ashamed of; it's something to be proud of.

British values are European values.

The EU was set up to protect and uphold these values - with Britain playing a key role. And it took two World Wars fought mainly on European soil to get where we are.

These values are not the values of Trump, or Farage.

Both men are driven by ego, ambition and disdain for the truth. They will say and do anything that suits them. Like all political megalomaniacs, they yearn for a world where strong, father-like figures rule over an intellectually sanitised, ethnically and culturally pure nation, uncontaminated by the evils of the outside world. They fear change. They fear losing control. And that's also why they also fear democracy, as their own statements demonstrate.

Not long ago this used to be called totalitarianism. Now we're told it's what democracy demands.

Make no mistake. Today we face the biggest challenge to our values, our society and our way of life since WWII.

A continent united in its values of democracy, equality, fairness and multiculturalism, and with a strong sense of social justice, poses a direct challenge to the power and influence of all autocratic strongmen. It's no wonder Farage, Trump, Putin and Le Pen have all cheered for each other - and in Putin's case, actively intervened in a foreign election.

In the UK, we still have a choice.

Our Parliament hasn't yet voted to trigger Article 50. We haven't yet left the EU, and cast our lot in with the Trumps and the Putins of this world.

But the British Government must urgently stop dancing to UKIP's tune.

Government and Parliament must do what is right for the nation, not based on a fundamentally flawed referendum but on what the reality is today.

The economic impact of the mere prospect of leaving the EU is becoming clearer by the day, the political crisis is intensifying, and we are starting to see that a growing majority of people now want to remain in the EU.

Our EU neighbours have also made it increasingly clear that there is no chance of a "soft Brexit", pulling the rug out from underneath the Government's "we'll have our cake and eat it" approach.

The EU referendum result provides no mandate whatsoever for dragging the UK out of the EU under these circumstances.

The EU was created as a bulwark against totalitarianism. And here we are trying to dismantle it, egged on by headlines which could've been lifted straight out of the Third Reich, while Trump invites Farage to his palace, and Putin considers whether he'll start with Latvia or Estonia.

Five months ago, the idea of President Trump was regarded with nothing but horror or derision by the whole of the UK, including some prominent Leave campaigners. Now he is standing over us, Putin by his side, and he's holding a big mirror up to us. In its reflection is the gloating grin of Nigel Farage.

There is still hope - but it's up to us, civil society, to seize it.

Article 50 is not a formality - it is a guillotine to our shared, European values, and to a united and peaceful continent.

If we have lost faith in our leaders, we must have the courage at least to stand up for our values. Because if we don't, no-one else will.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS