The Brexit roller-coaster
The Brexit roller-coaster ploughs on unpredictably with moves by the House of Commons to block the ‘no deal’ Brexit that most Brexiters voted for. The media often brand this a ‘hardline’ position but this is misleading since this is the only option that delivers a clean exit from the EU, one of the two referendum options available. Anyone taking the temperature of views in Britain could be forgiven for thinking that Remainers and Brexiters inhabit different planets but why might this be the case?
Factors underpinning Remain or Brexit attitudes
You could think of a plethora of factors. Personality could play a role, with Remainers perhaps having a predisposition for the status quo; differing levels of knowledge could be another with some more aware than others of the full implications of remaining in the EU. Then again, personal agendas may play a part with resolute globalists eager to pursue a Remain option in order to further moves to a globalised world.
However, there is one factor that might be overlooked.
This relates to people’s life experience of the armed forces, something that under the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 becomes subsumed in EU Foreign and security policy. The reality of this, little discussed in the mainstream media, is that aspects of British Defence will be merged with European Defence, something explored in brilliant detail by Will Podmore (https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/the-european-army). So, in June 2017, at a meeting of the European Council, Theresa May approved the European Defence Fund, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme and PESCO. The Council also agreed that the deployment of EU Battlegroups should be borne as a common cost on a permanent basis, something that the Prime Minister put her signature to as well.
Signing away Britains’ Defence
Signing away Britain’s defence is tantamount to signing away sovereignty and one might ask not just how this could happen following a Referendum decision to leave the EU, but also how individuals can feel comfortable doing this. I balk at this since I am aware of the cost in effort and in lives that allowed British sovereignty to persist and am aware of this at a both a national and also a personal level. For, I was brought up realising that no fewer than four members of my immediate family had served in the Second World War – my father in the Desert Rats, my uncle who was Judge Advocate in the RAF, my concert pianist mother who entertained the munitions workers and troops across Britain and her late brother, Arthur Walford, who tragically lost his young life in a training accident in the RAF in Canada shortly after enlisting.
We all know how early childhood experiences can leave their imprint and a recent study by Jean Decety and Jason Cowell of the University of Chicago found that one-year old children’s propensity to particular moral behaviours were influenced by their parents’ sensitivity to justice (see https://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12657.abstract). Could it be that children’s exposure to families that have fought in armed conflict influences their attitude to the EU and their stance on Brexit? Some serious research could be conducted on this topic but meanwhile, let us look at the familiar experiences of the four political leaders Britain has had since 2009 when the country was signed up to the Lisbon Treaty. We take this as our starting point since this Treaty planned the merger of the armed forces of individual sovereign states with the European Community.
Familiar experiences of political leaders since 2009
The leader responsible for the Lisbon Treaty was Gordon Brown. His father, the Reverend John Ebenezer Brown, was born in 1914, graduated with an MA from St Andrews in 1935 and then obtained a Bachelor in Divinity in 1939, the same year that he was ordained. His position in the church meant that he was not on active duty, leaving his son without the familial experiences referred to earlier.
David Cameron followed as Prime Minister, having been leader of the Conservatives since 2005. His father, Ian Donald Cameron, was born with physical disabilities in both legs and so was unable to undertake National Service. This left his son, David Cameron, a politician with Remainer beliefs, likewise someone without familial experiences of Britain’s armed forces.
Following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, he was succeeded by the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, whose father trained for the priesthood in 1940. This left May as another leader without familial experience of Britain’s armed forces. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was in a similar position since his father, born in 1915, had trained as an Engineering Apprentice, then becoming an electrical engineer, a ‘reserved’ occupation for which conscription did not apply. When war came, therefore, he was in the home guard rather than on active duty.
Beliefs are deeply rooted
A person’s worldview is a fundamental cognitive orientation with roots in many sources. As the Brexit roller-coaster continues to be steered off-course by Remainers, it is worth seeking the roots of people’s beliefs. Are they in independently formed opinion? Or family experiences or rather secret agendas? While we might wish for the first, we might be surprised to learn in fact how many fall into the last two categories.