Given the hostility those on the Left generally have for tabloid newspapers, it is notable how adept socialists can be at exploiting the tabloid mindset. They have proved versatile at coming up with catchy nicknames offering a derogatory slant on policies they disagree with.
For instance “Tax” is a short punchy word. It fits neatly into a headline and is easy to remember. When it comes to genuine taxes, the Labour Party tends to be rather keen on them. But it has also become expert at using the word “tax” as a label to stigmatise a policy which isn’t actually a tax and which it disagrees with.
A few years ago “Bedroom tax” was all the rage. During the election campaign it was “Dementia tax”. A simple exploration of the policies behind these so-called taxes proves there are nothing for the sort, but why let the truth get in the way of a good headline?
Then there is Brexit. Its opponents have captured the language in the most facile and dishonest way by presenting the choice now as “hard” or “soft” Brexit. Some might feel it sounds like a discussion about eggs – especially given that “Brexit” and “breakfast” get muddled up so frequently.
But the analogy is intended to be between a hard and soft landing. “Hard” being nasty, painful, damaging. “Soft” being nice, gentle, reasonable.
BBC journalists and Remain politicians use these phrases every day. Yet strip away the propaganda connotations and what are we left with?
These simplistic terms are deliberately chosen to have a blurred meaning. So far as one can gather, the key issue is whether or not the UK should retain membership of the Single Market after ceasing to be full EU members. But the truth is that rather than a “soft” Brexit membership of the Single Market would feel as if we hadn’t really left.
We would still have the Eurocrats demanding billions a year to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. They would still impose their rules and regulations on us – in the most detailed and wide ranging extent. Indeed, there would continue to be yet more laws spewed out which the British public would be forced to obey. It would also mean that we wouldn’t have control of our own orders – complete free movement with the EU would be required.
It also seems that advocates of a “soft Brexit” would wish the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU. That would mean that we could not negotiate our own free trade deals with the rest of world. What a huge missed opportunity that would be, given there are so many large and growing economies across the world where friendly Governments are keen to do business with us.
In short, a “soft” Brexit would be “no Brexit”. It would be a fraud.
At least with those who openly refuse to accept the referendum result you know where you are. Those who argue that MPs should ignore the referendum – or that a second referendum should take place to seek to overturn it – are outrageous in their refusal to accept the verdict of the people. But at least they are blatant in their contempt. The “soft Brexit” advocates prefer silky deception.
Of course, after the “Project Fear” of the referendum campaign it should not come as a surprise that Remainers should wish to misrepresent the discussion. Of course they will use loaded language. But it is a mistake for Brexiteers (including pro Brexit newspapers) to drift into accepting such convenient labels. They are not neutral
terms or even terribly informative. Certainly for supposedly impartial broadcasters – such as Sky News, ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC – to use them is quite unacceptable.
Language matters. It can either help rigorous thought and assist understanding, or we can rig the discussion with terms intended to close down the debate. Talk of “soft” and “hard” Brexit is half baked. Remainers should be straight about what they want and state their case. Their retreat into sophistry is not to their credit.