In politics, a “useful idiot” (or “useful fool”) is a person perceived as a propagandist for a cause, the goals of which they are not fully aware of, and who is used cynically by the leaders of that cause. It’s a term coined during the Russian revolution in 1917 which is making a comeback in Brexit Britain.
In the run up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership, barely a day went by without a relentless barrage of increasingly hysterical “project fear” propaganda from the pro-EU side, warning us of instant economic disaster if we dared to vote Leave.
Since 23 June 2016, virtually none of those predictions have proved to be correct. Apart from the fall in sterling (which has its upsides too), supporters of the Project Fear mantra have largely been discredited. The instant doom they promised us has not happened. So they’ve been forced to change tactics.
Now, we are told, Brexit is going to be a disaster. This Project Fear Mark 2 has been in action for months now. Every piece of pro-EU news is trumpeted as proof of how silly we’ve been to think of leaving. Meanwhile, every possible effort is made to denigrate the UK government and the country and to convince us all that resistance to staying in the EU is futile.
Something has happened to those “Remainers” who supported staying in the EU before the referendum. Many of them have morphed into what we now call “Remoaners”.
These Remoaners display common characteristics.
They pour vitriol on those who voted to leave and dismiss all of us as dimwits and racists who fell for a slogan on a bus. Yes really. They want to set aside the referendum result and would happily ignore the clear majority vote to leave.
They lost the biggest democratic vote the UK has ever had. But they refuse to accept it.
In the process, however, they do nothing but divide and undermine the country.
To the EU’s Brexit negotiators they have become what Lenin used to describe as “useful idiots”. By suggesting that we might yet change our minds on Brexit and reverse the decision, they simply encourage Brussels to believe that being aggressive and unhelpful to Britain will yield results.
The ridiculous demand made of the UK to pay a so-called “Brexit bill” for which there is no legal case whatsoever is part and parcel of that, as are dire warnings of lories queuing for miles to the channel ports while customs paperwork is completed. Given that most of the goods travelling across the channel are actually goods coming from the rest of the EU to Britain, such threats are insane. Yet such is the detachment of the pampered bureaucrats who run the EU, that they simply don’t understand – nor appear to care -what damage they will do to the lives of ordinary people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on smooth trade with Britain.
But never mind – the Remoaners are right behind them.
After years of the UK economy outperforming most of the EU, few months of data have been cited as proof by the Remoaners that it’s all going pear-shaped for Britain. A bank that employs thousands in the UK opens a representative office in Germany for a handful of staff and suddenly the Remoaners scream that all our jobs are going abroad. You know the drill: British agriculture will die without foreign fruit pickers; the NHS will collapse without migrants. And so on.
Yet astonishingly, so determined are these new Project Fear merchants that the UK should suffer after Brexit that they would rather scupper any chance of a UK trade deal with our single most important trading partner – the US – rather than see us succeed. Yes, so desperate have the Remoaners become, that even hapless chlorinated chickens have been drafted into the forefront of Project Fear’s arguments. Never mind the millions of poisoned Dutch eggs brimming with illegal insecticides that the EU allowed to be imported into the UK. They don’t matter.
Personally, I think the Remoaners are cracking up.