The Black Elephant is a concept invented by Dougald Hine and Vinay Gupta: “The Black Elephant is an unholy union of two boardroom clichés: the Elephant in the Room, the thing which everyone knows is important, but no one will talk about; and the Black Swan, the hard-to-predict event which is outside the realm of normal expectations, but has enormous impact. The Black Elephant is an event which was quite foresee-able, which was in fact an Elephant in the Room, but which, after it happens, everyone will try to pass off as a Black Swan.”
Brexit is Britain’s Black Elephant. It’s been lumbering about for years now and is about to break down the door and smash the place up. As Roger Cohen writes this could have devastating consequences including the failure of the euro and subsequent financial turmoil, political destabilisation from increased disunity over the refugee crisis which would greatly benefit the far-right in France and England and opportunity for Putin’s Russia to threaten further in the Baltics. “Conditions seem ripe. Europe is increasingly unloved, its miracle too dull to be appreciated” he writes.
It’s true a remote bureaucracy full of functionaries that shafted Greece is difficult to defend. And the quality of the political discourse is so poor its dispiriting. As Jim Monaghan puts it: “The only thing that stops the Remain campaign being the most despicable bunch of liars in any election in our history is the fact that the Leave campaign are the most despicable bunch of liars in any election in our history.”
It feels like a Summer of Hate, with the Liam Fee murder, hooliganism, celebrity death and now Orlando piling up week after week in the heat. These and the ongoing refugee crisis that we’ve become quietly and quickly inured to,combine to give a background drumbeat of violence.
Trans European Express
Yesterday the Daily Mail blurted: “Fury over plot to let 1.5m Turks into Britain”. It’s incessant, it’s pervasive.
The consequences of a Brexit are often pitched as being ‘scaremongering’ but it’s worth considering that this would represent a significant change in our position in the world and how “we” are perceived (few if any will make the distinction between England and Scotland’s voting patterns).
In all of this – you have to wonder, where is the love of Europe and of being Europeans? Were is the shared cultural experience of travel of the past thirty years? Have the memories of inter-railing, of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and Berlin all been subsumed by the sleazy rhetoric of Nigel Farage? How is that even possible?
How is it possible that we have forgotten the Second World War?
Why is it so difficult to find solidarity, hope or joy just in being European? Can’t we make a case for a love of place and shared culture through raves in Ibiza or retreat at Santiago de Compostela? Can’t we reframe the European debate by remembering camping by the river in the Dordogne or playing chess in the Széchenyi baths of Budapest?
Europe seems missing from the debate about Europe.
Let’s Take Control
The reasons for this may be many, and it may not be as certain as I and many others now fear. But if ‘Britain” votes Leave it may be because the case for remain was so badly made.
Anthony Barnett (“Let’s take control! Brexit and sovereignty”):
“Unlike those who predict that Brexit is now a certainty, I think the English have yet to decide with their heads what their hands will do on the ballot paper on 23 June. They may simply be making the government sweat before relenting in their judgment. But, in its heart, England has already made its choice. It prefers out. The superficial reason for this is that in his heart, the prime minister also wants out. His official Remain campaign has not produced a good reason why we should want to be members of the EU apart from not being able to afford to leave – which is a way of agreeing that if we could afford to do so, we should. Cameron and Osborne say they would not trash the economy to cut down immigration from the EU. They do not say why free movement is a wonderful thing, especially if you are young and broke. Just a small example of the absence of positivity.”
…in its heart, England has already made its choice. It prefers out. The superficial reason for this is that in his heart, the prime minister also wants out. His official Remain campaign has not produced a good reason why we should want to be members of the EU apart from not being able to afford to leave – which is a way of agreeing that if we could afford to do so, we should
If the Remain argument has been negative fearful shallow and uninspiring, Leave has taken us too new depths.
We are left with the choice of the ‘least worst option’. It is to Remain but also to confront the other Black Elephant, that we are not voting to protect the EU’s undemocratic and remote structures and institutions, but voting to have a hand in remaking them. We should vote Remain but immediately engage in dismantling most of the dysfunctional structures of Europe and rebuild them.
By the 9th of November of this year we could have a President Trump, a Prime Minister Johnson and be out of Europe against our will.