It’s Boris’ cheerfulness that Europhiles despise most
Exactly 25 years ago, Britain left the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Everyone agreed it would be a disaster – everyone, that is, except the general population. The CBI, the TUC, the BBC, Labour and the Lib Dems had all supported the ERM, seeing it as a precursor to the euro. They applauded when John Major warned that leaving would be “a betrayal of Britain’s future”. In the event, though, the people turned out to be wiser than the experts. Leaving the ERM ushered in 16 years of growth.
Did our Europhile elites learn their lesson? Of course not. Within a decade, they were hand-wringing in precisely the same way about our decision to keep the pound. “The euro, despite the foolish assertions of many commentators, has provided great internal stability to the eurozone,” pronounced Nick Clegg. “Our nonmembership of the eurozone is threatening great swathes of British industry,” fretted Michael Heseltine. “Until we come off the fence over joining the euro, we will slip backwards,” argued Peter Mandelson, his muddled metaphor indicating muddled thinking.
The same people are again predicting catastrophe, and again their forecasts are turning out to be wrong. Fifteen months after the Brexit vote, the promised recession has spectacularly failed to materialise. Growth, manufacturing output, exports, the stock exchange, retail activity, investment and employment have all risen. But we are dealing here with a psychological rather than an economic phenomenon. The assumptions that had ruled Britain for half a century were abruptly overturned last year; it was bound to disorientate our Establishment.
Nothing seems to irritate hardcore Europhiles more than optimism, and Boris Johnson’s sunny internationalism bothers them far more than Nigel Farage’s angry nativism. Boris’s article in yesterday’s Telegraph was characteristically chirpy, dwelling on Britain’s technological successes, the strength of our economy and the opportunities we shall now have as a global trading power. Frankly, he wouldn’t be doing his job as Foreign Secretary if he didn’t talk the country up. But to the Eeyores such Tiggerishness is unforgivable.
What particularly irks his critics is that Boris is, in their eyes, a class traitor. Clever, multilingual and educated partly in Brussels, he is someone Continuity Remainers feel ought to have been one of them. They can dismiss most of the 52 per cent as bigots and dimwits, but Boris infuriates them. Hence their briefings that he is underperforming as Foreign Secretary – a view you never hear from his officials, who point to successes in pacifying Somalia and Libya, restraining Trump in the Middle East, rallying Europe against Putin and ensuring that foreign aid is determined by British interests, not by the prejudices of Leftist NGOs.
We will look back on Brexit as we do on White Wednesday, and wonder what all the fuss was about. In the meantime, though, I do wish our more excitable Remainers would cheer up. It would make them feel better.
Class traitor? Many Remainers feel betrayed by Boris Johnson and have briefed that he is underperforming as Foreign Secretary