Changing Minds on Brexit
The aftermath of the Trump election shows us that we still have a long way to go in order to lead with truth, transparency and humility in a troubled world. In the UK, Boris Johnson is copying Trump’s design, by escalating his false promises, blame and lies to nuclear levels. “Operation Moonshot” has just failed to deliver. Christmas is almost certainly cancelled. Johnson continues to blame others for our Government’s continual “Cake and Eat it too” approach to Brexit negotiations. Changing Minds on Brexit on an industrial scale will be required if we are to return towards trust in politics and politicians. In this context I intend to serialise some chapters of my book “Let’s Talk About BREX..it“.
A successful Brexorcism takes skill, patience and time. Here is the preface to the book:
Why I wrote this book
I was in my late 50’s when Brexit began. I am now over 60 and although Brexit is “in the microwave, gas mark four”, it is still far from done, some would say overdone. Brexit will probably come undone in the coming year one way or another. Speaking personally, Brexit will not affect me positively or negatively. Outside my anti-Brexit life, I am an author, business consultant, speaker and knowledge worker who has always traded on a worldwide basis. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a shallow grave by the time that any of the supposed Brexit benefits materialise. Even 18th Century retro-Latin imperialist adventure capitalist Jacob Rees-Mogg said that we will get nothing back from Brexit for 50 years … I’m impatient in the age of Corona … not for myself, but for future generations.
Setting Brexit and Corona aside for a moment, we are merely responsible landlords of planet earth. If we do well in our lives, our aim should be to leave the planet in a better state that when we arrived. If the nature of our life and work does not allow us to answer that call, we must at least be guided by the principle of “do no harm.” We owe it to our children, their kids and the planet to do our best and stand up to those who would do harm in pursuit of narrower and more destructive goals. Brexit is a narrow ambition that would continue England’s love affair with disaster capitalism, lower standards of environmental stewardship and increased carbon footprints from more global trading. This is all happening at a time when the drive to solve world problems requires greater levels of collaborative leadership and co-dependency. Complex world problems require joined up thinking instead of splendid isolation and “I’m alright Jack and Jill” behaviours.
This requires us to continue the conversation with leave voters and, of course, Remainers, some of whom now have terminal Brexit apathy. These difficult conversations are made even more difficult when we currently must conduct them using socially distanced means. This book equips you with strategies, skills and stories to help you have these difficult conversations. A mind shift requires skill, patience and time. Over thousands of hours of fieldwork, it becomes apparent that, sometimes you need several sittings with your chosen subject, client or victim. The book provides a compendium of support with skill and patience. It will also help you use your precious time to greater impact.
Human beings have achieved great things for the planet. Sadly the human condition also includes a few human faults. Greed, avarice, ego and so on. We have witnessed it most recently in the fanatical stockpiling of toilet rolls amidst the Corona crisis. It means we think short term, sometimes selfishly and nostalgically. Crucially we don’t always realise that we are in this together with our neighbours and others we share this fragile earth with. As far as I know, earthworms, hydrangeas and molluscs do not share the faults of the “human race.” It is perhaps time to stop racing and trying to Trump each other, to consider what we can learn from the rest of the animal and plant kingdom. After all, we are allegedly more intelligent than snails … We must learn to be responsible custodians of planet earth. Brexit threatens to isolate Britain in a world that desperately needs more collaboration and co-operation. Worse still, Brexit takes Scotland, Northern Ireland and some parts of Wales and England down with it. To what purpose? I am still waiting for answers.
You may be asking yourself “Surely it is too late to stop Brexit? A piece of paper was signed on 31 January 2020 so isn’t it all done now?” I will work through the arguments as to why Brexit can be stopped later in this book. However, some Remainers suffer from what psychologists call “Learned Helplessness”? This is the condition where people believe that there is nothing they can do to alter the course of Brexit or that they should not interfere, due to faux notions of “democracy” or “the will of the people”. In other words “we can’t do anything” and “we must not do anything”. My own brother who voted to Remain is part of what the Rt Hon Ken Clarke calls the “indifferent majority” and has quoted “the will of the people”. In truth he is fearful of the far right and it’s easier to comply rather than resist. Whilst I completely understand his position and that of others like him, such people are an absolute danger to the resolution of such problems. I am quite sure that the vast majority of the German people did not think that Mr Hitler would do anything awful in 1938. Some simply looked away. Simply stated, silence is assent.
Taking first the issue of feeling there is nothing that can be done to change things, this is fundamentally untrue. This book offers a wide palette of things we can do. At the highest levels of thinking, quite simply, Brexit is a political process and not a legal one. All that is needed at the basic level would be an e-mail to cancel it, followed by a lot of grovelling in private, probably the fall of the prevailing Government or certainly the key players. Eventually a lengthy public process would be created and some “ceremony” to allow us to rejoin the EU or simply not to leave. However, this “christening ceremony” would almost certainly be followed by “terms and conditions”, based on the fact that our Brexit belligerence has been largely informed by decades of the UK “having its cake and eat it too” aka getting its own way on things like Shengen, the Euro etc.
On the question of “should we interfere?” this again is a simple matter to debunk. Democracy informed by gross lies on the NHS, immigration etc. targeted Facebook ads, overspending on election campaigns are not the high-water marks of democracy. In any case, some four years on, the demographics of Brexit have altered considerably with approximately 1.5 million leave voters having spun off this mortal coil and 1.7 million young people becoming eligible to vote, creating a significant shift on the “will of the people”. As I write this update, it rather seems that these demographics are likely to be disproportionately affected by Boris Johnson’s Corona Cull of older voters. In any case, “Generation Greta”, above all else, understand our connectedness and co-dependency.
The other question that should be troubling you some four years later is the one that asks the Buzzcocks’ Brexit question “What do I get?”. Perhaps we don’t ask the question in a selfish way, but nonetheless it becomes relevant to ask what benefits are on offer to our fellow citizens if we are to endure some 50 years of pain to get there. It is a question I’ve asked tirelessly during thousands of hours of street encounters and one I still cannot get any sensible answers on from the common man or woman. The best I have had in recent times came from the man who wanted to leave the EU so that he could land a 5 lb bass from the Swale in Kent and the other man who was willing to throw all the benefits of EU membership away because he personally thought that garlic was used too much in the local cafes and restaurants.
Brexit is, at one level, a gross example of selfishness, greed and avarice by a few disaster capitalists. These people have successfully persuaded the masses that Brexit will be good for them, although the mounting body of evidence suggests otherwise. The Dunning Kruger effect and misplaced pride prevent some leave voters from admitting that Brexit will not deliver any of the supposed benefits we were mis-sold so slickly and compellingly. This plays out daily via snappy catchphrases such as “Take Back Control”, “Brexit Means Brexit”, “Pop Brexit in the microwave”, “Let’s get Brexit done” etc. Feelings overwhelm facts in the tsunami of data that arrives daily across our TV screens, computers and smartphones. In the words of XTC “Senses Working Overtime”.
The information age is also in part responsible for the Brexit vote. Aside from interference in the voting process by Cambridge Analytica and underground targeted Facebook ads, another effect is in play here. We receive some 34 GB of data daily. This more than the average person received in their entire life in 1800. Quite naturally the response to “drowning in data” in some cases is to shut down from information overload altogether. Nigel Farage understood this well, when he asked the nation to vote with their hearts and not their heads after we were numbed senseless by data.
I originally titled this book “The Brexit Monologues.” Why a monologue I hear you say? Surely a conversation is a dialogue? Well some of the conversations I’ve had with some hardcore leave voters have been monologues. In other words they simply wish to unload their “story” on me before there is any possibility of a dialogue. I have had literally thousands of conversations with Brexiteers in cafés, bars and on the street. Listening skills do not usually begin until I have invested sufficient time and energy in understanding their viewpoints, however much I may disagree with them. It is also essential to establish a platform of expertise and some basic trust if they are to listen to you in preference to their own trusted advisor, whether that is Nigel Farage or the bloke in the pub. Why exactly should they wish to listen to me anyway? Many of them simply want to download their concerns, issues and fantasies about Brexit and their feelings of being left behind. In listening to these people, I have found that these monologues are actually quite revealing. At the same time, some level of change can occur by simply allowing these people to vent their feelings of rage, disappointment, and regret about their lives. Occasionally and usually after a degree of patient listening, it is possible to separate their feelings from the causes of these feelings. In other words to separate their regrets from the fact that the EU is not the root cause of their regrets. Once we achieve this, we have the possibility for what I term a “Brexorcism”, in other words a shift in their beliefs about the world and about Brexit in particular.
Changing Minds on Brexit provides strategies, skills and stories to help you change minds, whilst helping you to look after yourselves in the process. I use the word Brexorcism not because I’m expecting you to throw holy water at your subjects! Nor do I expect you to have to deal with people whose heads and viewpoints rotate 360 degrees. We are generally dealing with quasi-religious beliefs or even identity level change, where Brexit is intimately linked with people’s sense of self, Queen, country and flag. When we engage with a leave voter, we are sometimes challenging people at the level of who they are or the very why of their being. This requires skill, time, patience and flexibility on our part.
The book also helps with healing the divides that Brexit has set up on our DIsUnited Kingdom, whether family, friend or community based.
This book is not just about Brexit ghostbusting. Where Brexit leads, Trump, Erdogan and others follow. Just as sure as ladies’ hemlines rise and fall for no particular reason with the whims of fashion every year, populism and the rise of the far right in difficult times are also fashion statements that others follow. So, you will find this book of immense value if you are trying to fight populism anywhere in the world.
On New Year’s Day 2017 I coined the catchphrase “Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain” in the shower. I note this has been adopted and adapted quite widely. I recently realised that it needed updating. On New Year’s Day 2019 I came up with a new mantra which remains relevant:
“We seek a Better Britain in a Better Europe for a Better World.”
We are all in this together and it is about time we woke up to the fact. We can no longer live in unsplendid isolation in the 4th industrial age. Yes, we need to reform our politics and the very notions of capitalism if we are to survive. But turning our backs on problems and opportunities that we face as a global village is not a sensible response.
I hope this gives some clues as to why you might want to read the book … read on …