Ioan Marc Jones: Brexit The Movie has convinced me to vote - for Remain
The film's commentators are itching to smash every regulation ever created to smithereens.
Last weekend, while others were enjoying the seaside, I sat in a dark room and watched Brexit: The Movie. This might seem like a dismal way to spend a day off, but it was actually rather productive. You see, prior to watching the documentary, I wasn’t sure how I would vote in the upcoming referendum. Once the final credits rolled, however, I had made my choice. Brexit: The Movie convinced me to vote Remain.
The documentary started so promisingly. A host of right-wing commentators and a couple of token lefties discussed some of the serious problems facing the European Union. They addressed the democratic deficit; corporate lobbying; the inability for representatives to propose legislation; and the lack of accountability. So far, so good.
Seconds after this segment finished, however, the documentary took a turn and launched into a ludicrously bias interpretation of British history.
The narrator starts by praising Britain’s dominance during the industrial revolution. Apparently, these were the glory days when the lack of regulation led to innovation and economic prosperity. The narrator neglects to mention, of course, some of the ostensibly insignificant issues confronting British people at the time, such as the absence of workers’ rights, child labour, slum housing and mass poverty. These issues matter little, apparently, because there was no regulation and thus life was perfect.
Brexit: The Movie’s historical journey descends into the darker ages of the Twentieth Century – an age dominated by two seemingly equal evils: regulation and war. Clem Atlee arrives on the scene and regulation, not the fallout from conflict, deprives children of food. Regulation apparently leads to further problems for Brits in myriad ambiguous forms and offers little in return. Universal education, victories for workers’ rights, mass house building projects, and the NHS are conveniently stripped from the narrative. It seems the second half of the Twentieth Century was a terrifying time for Britons, particularly when compared to the good times of the Nineteenth.
The documentary fast-forwards to the darkest days of British history. The true villain of the piece – the menacing EU – enters the fray and an onslaught of one-sided criticism emerges. The commentators present the EU as a colossal machine intent on reigning regulatory terror on innocent people – no one, but no one, can escape its wrath.
The rest of the documentary descends into a cacophony of regulation-bashing, establishment figures criticising establishment figures and a healthy dose of name-calling.
As with almost every documentary, the final scenes invite one to form one’s own conclusions while hinting at exactly what conclusions to form. So, why did Brexit: The Movie finally convince me to vote Remain? Well, the documentary confirmed long-held suspicions.
The commentator’s vision of a post-EU Britain harks back to the apparent glory days of the industrial revolution and scorns the social progress made in education, workers’ rights and healthcare.
This vision is particularly worrying as I suspect these folks will dictate the post-EU world. This is something I am not eager to lend my vote.
Furthermore, I do not actually hate regulation. Call me crazy, but I believe regulation often serves a social purpose. Regulation can correct market failures and manage externalities. Indeed, some of my primary concerns – such as animal welfare, environmental issues and workers’ rights – depend on regulation. And while we often hear from the Leave campaign that some of these regulations will be preserved, the commentators in this documentary are itching to smash every regulation ever created to little regulatory smithereens – and, again, I believe folks with the same political ideology are likely to rule the post-EU roost.
I am highly sceptical of the EU. I struggle with the evident democratic deficit – although I don’t believe, as Nigel Farage suggests, the EU is anti-democratic. I dislike the inability of elected representatives to propose legislation in the Commission. I am uncomfortable with the distance between people and representatives, and believe this demonstrates a clear lack of accountability.
But I also support workers’ rights, animal welfare, cross-border co-operation on tax and environmental concerns and other issues I fear will be undermined if we choose to leave the EU.
For me, the choice in this referendum is between two evils and, after watching Brexit: The Movie, the EU seems the lesser.
“Whenever you tell a story, you tell a lie.” That’s a great line from the play, and it feels very now.
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