“He didn’t want to die until Brexit was reversed.” These words were spoken at the funeral last week of my dear friend and ex Observer colleague Dick Leonard.
Dick died a month ago at the age of 90. The speaker was his widow, Irène Heidelberger-Leonard, before a group of mourners that included Labor leader Keir Starmer, for whom Dick had been something of a political mentor.
Dick’s devotion to the European cause was such that he jeopardized his political career – he was parliamentary private secretary to Labor Cabinet Minister Anthony Crosland from 1970 to 1974 – when he joined 68 other Labor rebels, led by Roy Jenkins, in the vote in 1971 in favor of joining the European community, against labor policy at the time. Yes, the attitude of Labor towards what is now the EU has always been a roller coaster ride, and here we go again, with prominent Labor politicians accepting without conviction a Brexit that is manifestly a disaster and must be reversed.
Even that prominent culprit and architect of the lying Leave campaign seemed to have doubts about all this in his interview with BBC Two last week. “Is Brexit a good idea? No one on Earth knows, “said the shameless Dominic Cummings. In fact, said the prime minister’s former best friend, it may be” perfectly reasonable to say that Brexit was a mistake. “
I will say that it is perfectly reasonable. Many of us here on Earth know this very well. But Cummings, almost indicating that in handing over Brexit to Johnson, he was simply acting as a hired mercenary, also told us that anyone who is convinced that Brexit is a good thing must “have a screw loose.”
The media is now full of disaster stories on a daily basis. The Northern Ireland “protocol” is unworkable. The atrocious Brexit Minister Lord Frost makes a laughingstock of the country every time he says that the deal the UK signed, for Johnson’s short-term political expediency, should be renegotiated on the grounds that the EU is. doing. – Unreasonable! Remember Groucho Marx’s joke: “These are my principles. And if you don’t like them … well, I have others. “
One begins to wonder if Cummings now thinks that, in addition to all the other well-publicized prime minister gaffes, the chaos of Brexit may contribute to Johnson’s downfall, a significant indicator is how “Freedom Day “July 19 quickly turned into a fiasco. day of the same week that the crisis in Northern Ireland became fully apparent. In the first case, you didn’t need footballers to embarrass the government: just the CEO of Marks & Spencer.
But let’s go back to my late friend Dick Leonard, with whom I often worked covering European affairs when he was based in Brussels. Many of the problems brought on by Brexit supporters could have been avoided if they had consulted the invaluable EU guides he co-wrote for the Economist and later Routledge publishers. In the 2016 issue of The Routledge Guide to the European Union, the authors – Dick and another EU expert, Robert Taylor – observed about the impending referendum in the UK: “Not everyone would accept that it would be a situation where both Britain and the EU would win if voters choose to stay, but it will surely be a loss if they decide to quit smoking. “
Had Brexit supporters consulted the guide, they might have figured out what the customs union and the single market really were, and what it would take to make the rude decision to abandon hard-earned membership privileges (earned privileges, in the case of unique membership). market, especially for her apparent political heroine Margaret Thatcher). It is impossible to believe that, after the deed was done and the Brexiters in the cabinet faced reality,
our former ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, had to explain both institutions to them.
Unfortunately, as that astute observer Denis MacShane, former Labor Minister for Europe, recently noted, “Johnson needs a permanent war with the EU to show that the Battle of Brexit is not over.” This on behalf of a country that went to war in 1939 to save Europe, and whose prime minister, Winston Churchill, even proposed, in 1940, what would have been in effect a political union of the United Kingdom and France.
Above all, says MacShane, who probably coined the term Brexit and certainly predicted the outcome of the referendum, Johnson “wants the main opposition, Labor, to say nothing about Brexit.”
But surely the time has come, and those words from our friend Dick Leonard’s widow – “I didn’t want to die until Brexit was reversed” – I hope will strengthen Starmer’s resolve.