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Ian McEwan: Statement of Clarification on Brexit

My remarks at a press conference in Barcelona this week have been somewhat garbled through translation into Catalan and Spanish. I do not think for a moment that those who voted to leave the EU, or their representatives resemble Nazis. Nor does our government even faintly resemble the Third Reich. Nor do I believe that the voting process itself was anything but an accurate representation of current thinking. However, I did say to the assembled journalists that the phrase 'enemies of the people' was one associated with Robespierre and therefore carried an unpleasant association; I did say that the press harrying of some judges of the Supreme Court was nasty (not Nazi); I do believe that the general tone of those leading the Brexit process has become intolerant of dissent, and that the near-half who voted to remain have been let down by their parliamentary representatives, who seem to have been bullied into silence. (Honourable exceptions have been Kenneth Clark and Michael Heseltine). I did indeed invoke the German plebiscite of 1935 for just that bullying aspect, but not because I think the Brexiters have descended into fascism. I did indeed say that I wished to live in a parliamentary democracy rather than in a country prepared to upend the totality of its public life on the narrow outcome of a referendum -- another name for an opinion poll. Eurosceptics never accepted the outcome the last time our EU membership was put to a popular vote and have fought for decades to leave. In a democracy that was always their right. It follows that it is the right of those of us who voted to remain to continue to speak for what we believe is in our country's best interest and not allow ourselves to be cowed into silence.


Ian McEwan
13 March 2017