Summary: Fighting Brexit is something that must be encouraged and carried out with enthusiasm and energy. Focusing on loss aversion, whereby individuals are much more concerned with understanding what they might lose that they are about what they might gain should underpin our methods. Emphasising what they have already lost with the current right-wing government and what they will lose increasingly as Brexit gathers pace is key. The promises of the Brexiteers need to be challenged. Those opposing Brexit can point to all the losses that have already been created by the hard right governments we have had in recent years. The battle must be taken to the Brexiteers!
The only way that we can avoid leaving the EU with either no deal at all (hard Brexit) or a weak, unsatisfactory deal is to change the opinion of a significant fraction of the British population who voted to Leave. The vote was close, 52 to 48 and was substantially built on lies and propaganda on both sides intended to obscure the truth. The Government’s hardline approach to Brexit can only be reversed if public opinion turns significantly against Brexit.
There is every indication that this might well happen. Gradually we will find that there are things we have had yet now are losing. The drop in the exchange rate will provide a temporary lift but once the effect of that work through to consumer prices and inflation starts to increase substantially the pain will increase. Inflation tends to lead to rises in interest rates. With the recent growth in the economy fuelled substantially by increasing credit that will cause a significant pain to those least able to tolerate it.
We are also now seeing projections and analysis that make it clear just how much different regions of the country will be affected. A recent report from Demos makes it clear that some of the strongest supporting regions for Brexit, Wales and the North-East, will be particularly hard-hit. Wales exports 60% to the EU. Much of that is agricultural which will be hit by particularly high tariffs. Wales is also one of the biggest recipients of EU funds which are unlikely to be provided as lavishly by the post-Brexit British government. The East of England will also be badly affected by the difficulty in recruiting agricultural labourers to gather a substantial part of British fruit and vegetable produce.
Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002. One of his most important studies was to appreciate how individuals are much more concerned with avoiding the loss of something they have ready have than they are with the prospect of gaining something they don’t yet have. Loss aversion is extremely important at every level and every society. It is an idea that is now accepted as being key in underpinning human motivation. Understanding this can guide our approach to persuading Brexiteers to change their mind.
The key to helping people realise that Brexit might not be good for them after all is to make them understand just how much they will be losing. The Brexiteers promise that we will gain something. Those promises must be challenged and balanced by explaining what we are all likely to lose. The losses will be felt particularly by those who have already suffered badly.
Indeed we can understand partly Labour’s failure to make any political headway during the last two governments because they have not been prepared to point out just how much individuals have lost in recent years because of austerity. Austerity has not been seriously challenged by the left-wing political classes and the best way to do that is not simply to say it is unnecessary but to point out just how much everybody has lost.
There are millions of people in the UK who no longer can afford to take a holiday. There are many millions who are materially worse off than they were before the crash of 2008. These are people who will understand and feel what it is they have already lost. Targeting them and making it as clear as possible that they will lose again and again if Brexit goes ahead.
The Labour Party is in a sorry state now and cannot be relied upon to be much help in this. However wanting the UK to remain in the EU is something that people in all walks of life support so fighting Brexit is something that transcends the usual political boundaries in the UK.
To the barricades!