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Those who voted to leave the EU weren’t stupid


You have to consult the Lamentations of Jeremiah to find a grim parallel to the wailing and gnashing of Europhile teeth after the Brexit side won the recent referendum in the U.K. 

benThe Remain crowd have proved to be sore losers, with their flood of excoriation, mockery, denigration and raw anger directed at those who voted to leave the European Union.

Even days after the vote, the losers cannot contain their scorn for the result, nor repress their anger at the low-rent, anti-immigrant, xenophobic Little Englanders whose views prevailed.  The Leave side won, evidently, because the slow-witted and retrogressive elements of the population out-campaigned and outsmarted their demonstratively superior antagonists.

Rationalizing a loss is, of course, not a new phenomenon.  But building a rationalization on the idea that the crowd you lost to cannot, as the phrase has it, walk and chew gum at the same time, is a novel excursion.  If you lost to a pack of fools and social Neanderthals, and if you lost with your side having all respectable opinion, the organs of academia, the press and business interests on your side, then it should prompt some serious and not-too-flattering introspection.  In a nutshell, if the Leave side was so stupid and out of touch with everything in the modern age, how on earth did Remain, with all that intelligence and authority, lose the vote?

Not only are the losers displaying bad political manners, they are also blind to the real reasons why they lost.  Do any of the Remain campaigners acknowledge the great file of complaints that has grown over the last decade about the EU's style of governance, its increasing distance from any superintending authority other than its own, its absolute divorce from democratic responsibility and the furiously paternalistic and near-imperial manner in which it treats the representatives and citizens of its member states?

The European Parliament does house members from democratic states, but once those members make it to Brussels and Strasbourg, they have no constituents to answer to and give but haughty regard to the countries that sent them.  The EU is a bureaucrats' imperium, where unelected masters dispense rules and laws to the citizens of 28 previously sovereign states, with little respect to the traditions and cultures of those nations, and no accountability to any but their well-paid peers and paladins.

The EU itself was formed using the frog-in-boiling-water approach: a little encroachment at a time, so no one notices the kettle is getting hotter every year.  First it was but a common market with a few states.  It then began encroaching on every other aspect of European life — EU bureaucrats have a morbid appetite for petty and trivial intrusions into the personal and domestic arenas of almost every citizen under their dubious flag.

Who is the EU to regulate the kitchen kettle?  Or the shape of bananas?  Or whether olive oil must be capped when served in restaurants?  Or how powerful vacuum cleaners need to be?  Should a super-state dictate the heating capacity of your hairdryer?  There was nothing too picayune, too morbidly particular that the diktat-wielding EU bureaucracy wouldn't stick its overbearing nose into.  And to hell with the dignity of those it presumed to hector.

That's the trivial stuff that gets under people's skin, but the EU has also assumed many of the responsibilities that were traditionally the proprietary domain of sovereign states. 

That's the trivial stuff that gets under people's skin, but the EU has also assumed many of the responsibilities that were traditionally the proprietary domain of sovereign states.  The European Court of Justice assumed authority over the courts of countries, like the U.K., that have a tradition of common law that dates back to the Magna Carta, and which have done more to spread the ideas of democracy and the rule of law than anything Brussels could dream of.

I could cite examples big and small.  But my main point is that, contrary to the mewling complaints and arrogant dismissal of last week's vote as a product of ignorance and folly combined, there were serious reasons behind the votes of many who opted to leave the EU.  And much of the result flowed directly from the manners and practices of the bureaucrats in Brussels who over the years did more to advance the cause of those who voted Leave than the Leave campaign itself.

Some modesty, early on, in responding to member states' complaints, some reserve and limitation on the range and number of their mind-numbing corpus of petty regulations — these might have softened the antipathy and reduced the temperature of the EU's opponents.  I think a lot of people who voted Leave saw a massive power grab underway, the creation of a super-entity that had contempt for local sensibilities, was insulated from every notion of accountability and regarded the individual citizens of its forced-march member states as kulaks and peasants of a new order.  No wonder the Europhiles lost.  Those who voted to leave weren't stupid.  They were just angry.  And with cause.



murphy Rex Murphy, "'Those who voted to leave the EU weren’t stupid." National Post (June 30, 2016).

Reprinted with permission of the National Post.

The Author

Murphysmmurphy Rex Murphy was host of CBC Radio One's Cross-Country Checkup, a nation wide call-in show, for 21 years before stepping down in September 2015. Murphy is a frequent presence on the various branches of the CBC. He has regular commentary segments entitled "Point of View" on The National, the CBC's flagship nightly news program.  See Rex's TV commentaries. In addition, he writes book reviews, commentaries, and a weekly column for the National Post. He is the author of Canada and Other Matters of Opinion and Points of View.

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