There are two meanings to the word “friend”, writes EMiS executive member Richard Haviland.
There’s the person with whom you share a relationship of mutual affection. And there’s the expression that escapes from the mouth of the chancer, whose insincerity puts you on your guard as he puts his arm around you – the “friend” deployed by Boris Johnson when he speaks about the EU.
It’s long been obvious that, for the zealots in charge, it was never just about leaving the EU. It was about severing ties of friendship, culture and commerce; creating mutual antipathy; digging up roots rather than just cutting off branches.
To bring this about, the UK has invented the novel practice of anti-diplomacy, as exemplified by its master exponent Lord Frost. With anti-diplomacy, you seek division while pretending to look for common ground; you see others’ mistakes as a chance to score points; you rub salt into wounds rather than look to heal them.
In this world, the Government is to blame for nothing. When trade declines, it’s the EU’s pettiness for treating us as the third party we asked to be. If there’s tension in Northern Ireland, it’s everybody’s fault but ours, despite our determination, through hard Brexit, to create borders when peace has depended on the absence of borders. In any case, the Government’s hands are tied because this is what the British people voted for.
If, before we left the EU, to resist this was to be labelled undemocratic, to do so now will be to be called unpatriotic. Speaking in favour of the EU will be displaying allegiance to a foreign power. Never mind that the geo-political aims of every British government since the war until Johnson’s have been to keep close to Europe. Or that, for centuries, Britain’s obsession has been to ensure the continent was never united against us. Those who fight this nonsense in our millions will have to get used to the slurs.
This is not about saying the EU is above reproach. It’s about recognising that, since Johnson became PM, Britain has been bristling with ill intent. And now it is behaving like a footballer who spends a match kicking his opponent, then clutches his face in feigned agony when he gets shoved in the chest.
The plan is working. Our neighbours are showing signs that they can no longer be bothered with a government that lies and breaks international law. There is animosity building towards us which will cause lasting and deep-seated damage.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you voted for Brexit, is this really what you had in mind? The trashing of the UK’s international reputation? The manufactured enmity? The undermining of peace in Northern Ireland? Are you sure you haven’t been conned?