Brexit: we have to try harder to understand the other’s point of view

I had a moment of clarity yesterday: like a light had been shone on the murky confusion that is my mind, trying to understand why the two sides of the Brexit debate feel so diametrically opposed.

Article updated: 12 April 2019 9:00am Author: Michael Baxter

There are myths, lies and outrageous distortions of the truth. Reluctantly I would say on both sides of the Brexit debate — although I would say that the above trio of unpleasant descriptions apply more to the side that disagrees with me, but then that is human nature, those that disagree with us always seem riddled with bias.

Yet it is strange. When I do try to hammer out the key issues regarding the Brexit debate with someone who disagrees with me, it seems nigh on impossible to reach any kind of mutual understanding. It is as if we speak different languages.

I can’t really go into detail here explaining the alternative ideology to mine, because I don’t really understand it, but I can explain mine. And I’ll warn you, this comes with a sting in its tail.

But I would like to hear equally honest attempts to explain the alternative view.

Live long and prosper

I have a feeling my ideology was born when I was a kid watching Star Trek; Gene Roddenberry’s view of the future rhymed with my childlike understanding. There was a crew consisting of an Asian, a Russian, a black female, a Scotsman, an all American hero and an American doctor and of course a Vulcan. Their ship had the initials USS — but there was ambiguity, did this mean United States Ships, or United Star Ships. I think most viewers interpreted it as being non-country specific.

John Lennon

Or take John Lennon, he once said “imagine there’s no country...nothing to kill or die for...a brotherhood of man.”

That’s my idea of utopia.

Black hole

Let’s take another example: I write these words two days after the first ever photograph of a black hole was taken. The creation of this image is a superb example of global cooperation — data from eight radio telescopes scattered all over the world: Chile, Antarctica and Spain for example.

We live in a time when international cooperation is the key to our survival — the perils of climate change, plastic pollution, the threat to the global insect population, the threat posed by AI, the power exuded by massive global corporations trying to avoid paying tax by playing countries off against each other, all demand this.

If we remain too country specific in our aims and ambitions we create a massive threat with our own future.

People

People are the same everywhere, look beyond the colour of their skin, the clothes they wear, their religion, you find people are the same — same types of jokes, fears and aspirations.

One day

Beethoven’s Ode to Joy looks forward to a day when all men are brothers — echoing John Lennon’s “brotherhood of man.”

And that example of Beethoven’s beautiful music happens to be the EU anthem— sentiments that seem to sum up the ideology behind it.

Traitor

This does not make me a hater of my nation. I dearly want England to win the World Cup, I cheer Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1, and am proud of my country’s contribution to science, human rights and culture. I felt a sense of pride during the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

But when I read some newspapers and the views of some people towards immigrants and Jonny Foreigner, I get a sense of shame.

The difference

My support for the EU was shaken during the run up to the referendum when I saw a spate of Brexit supporters making similar arguments. The route to global cooperation and creating international understanding and empathy lies with us leaving the EU, they argued. I voted Remain, but such arguments nearly swayed me.

It seems to me that we can now say such arguments were wrong — the prejudice and hate encountered by non-British born UK citizens, and how even families fear being broken up, illustrates this. I believe this is why many Brexit supporters have changed their minds — they share my beliefs but no longer see Brexit as the best reflection of those beliefs.

Business

There is one thing that puzzles me. The Tories have long claimed to be the party of business, and by inference, of wealth creation. The majority of business leaders, especially leaders of our more dynamic and successful companies, our exporters, the creme de la creme of British business, are anti-Brexit and horrified by the idea of hard Brexit.

It seems to me, that the hard Brexit wing of the Tory party — a wing that seems so strong — risk alienating the party from business forever — maybe leaving the door open for Corbynesque socialism for a generation. I can’t help think that this is the opposite of what they hoped to achieve.

Keeping to the spirit of cooperation and avoiding name calling or citing slogans like ‘leave means leave’ tell me how you disagree.


These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Share Centre, its officers and employees

Michael Baxter portrait photo
Michael Baxter

Economics Commentator

Michael is an economics, investment and technology writer, known for his entertaining style. He has previously been a full-time investor, founder of a technology company which was floated on the NASDAQ, and a director of a PR company specialising in IT.

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