I had an interesting conversation with my mother last night. That in itself is not, I hasten to add, sufficient reason to devote a blog post to it. But the topic of the conversation is, because it explains quite a lot about how our country has got itself into such a pickle about the European Union.
It started when my mother expressed her discontent with the current state of affairs as regards the government’s current approach – or perhaps lack of approach – to Brexit.
“I’m so glad I voted to remain*,” she said. “But I suppose that now we’ve had the referendum, we don’t really have a choice.”
“Sure we do,” I replied. “The referendum was only advisory, like a big opinion poll. It doesn’t have any legal force.”
“Really? Do people know this?”
“Well I do, so I’m guessing that people like Theresa May know, too.”
“Then why the bloody hell are we leaving the European Union?”
A fair question, I’d say. But if my (well educated and hitherto reasonably well informed) mother thinks we have no choice now but to leave the EU, this may explain how the government can get away with being as rubbish about the whole thing as it currently is.
The conversation didn’t end there, though.
“What’s all this single market thing about?”, my mother asked. (It’s never good to be the only person in the family with a politics degree, especially at times like this.)
I explained briefly what it’s all about. I won’t go into the details of my explanation here, because if you’re reading my blog you probably know what the single market is all about. If you don’t, though, and would like to know more, email me.
“So the single market and the EU are sort of the same thing, then?”, she clarified.
“Well, yes,” I said. “Pretty much. The single market is one of the benefits of being in the European Union. It’s how the whole thing came into being.”
“Then why didn’t anyone tell us this during the referendum campaign? I thought the referendum was about immigration. If what you say about the single market is true, the other EU countries are never going to let us stay in the single market if we leave the EU. It’s all a complete load of nonsense.”
I lowered my head slowly into my hands (not easy when you’re on the phone) and sighed. But she went on.
“Simon, I don’t think anybody realised that leaving the EU would mean leaving the single market. Otherwise they’d never have voted to leave. It’s going to be a disaster.”
On that cheery note, we moved on to my sister’s new job (working as a lawyer for a tobacco company – the good news just keeps on rolling in) and how my five year old nephew, when asked to bring something farming-related to his school’s harvest festival, had decided to take my mum’s ageing border collie. (Who loved it, apparently.)
But seriously, if my mum’s anything like reasonably representative of your average voter, we’ve walked headlong into the biggest crisis facing the country for quite some time. And we’ve done so, it would seem, without actually realising what we were doing.
This really does explain quite a lot. But it certainly doesn’t make me any happier about it.
* This was, however, only after I’d spent about two weeks of daily phone calls trying to convince her that voting leave was perhaps not the smartest of ideas.