Article 50 has been triggered. Should we celebrate?

Stephen Pollard and Keren David put opposing views on a turning point in British history


Keren David says...


The day after the referendum it felt as though someone had told me that I couldn’t be Jewish any more. That’s how strongly I feel about the European part of my multi-layered identity.

Being part of the EU, to me, means above all freedom and opportunity. Freedom from war in Europe being the most important benefit — and one which tends to be taken for granted.

European citizenship means — meant — the right to live and work anywhere in 27 nations. That’s a huge thing to lose, especially for our children. With the future so uncertain, the danger is that they will have to build their careers in a smaller, less secure, low-wage economy.

I’m not saying everything about the EU was perfect. But when financial disaster threatened my family 20 years ago, we were able to seek new opportunities in the Netherlands. The advantages of being in a single labour market were immediately obvious. We could find jobs and start immediately, no visas needed. What similar freedom does Brexit offer? None at all.

The Leave campaign used xenophobia as its fuel. There seems now to be a group of people who believe that Brexit will make the foreigners, the Other, disappear. Their anger when that doesn’t happen will be enormous. They are already being encouraged to blame a global metropolitan liberal elite — words so often used as shorthand for “Jewish”.

I may be catastrophising — I’m Jewish, I’m good at that — but if so then no Brexiteer has said anything to reassure me. My one comfort after the referendum was that a 52/48 split was so close that it only seemed to give a mandate for the softest of soft exits.

When Theresa May took over, I was relieved because she had backed Remain. But I’ve spent months watching May embrace Ukip policies and try to dodge parliamentary scrutiny. When David Davis said this week that Leave had won a “massive” victory, I knew that fake news is as rife here among the powerful as it is in Trump’s America.

None of this feels very democratic. None of it makes me feel as though the sovereignty the British people have regained is meaningful.

The British ex-pats we met in Amsterdam were ambitious young adults seeking a better future for themselves. They, and we, made friends of many nationalities, learned at least a bit of another language and a huge amount about how other countries work. This knowledge enhances individuals and builds societies.

How perverse that I now envy Jewish friends whose families came from Germany, now rushing to get dual nationality. Their children will have vast opportunities as European citizens. Mine will not.

Keren David is the JC’s features editor

Stephen Pollard says...


The only thing that stops me describing this week as the happiest of my political life is the knowledge that our actual departure from the EU will not happen until 2019.

But I really never thought I would live to see the day when we delivered formal notification to the EU of our intention to leave, so I’m happy enough to celebrate two years early.

When I went to work in Brussels in 2001, I was convinced that the way forward lay in reforming from within. We had allies who shared much of the British outlook, and we could surely work together to change the EU.

I was soon disabused of that idea when I saw the all-encompassing arrogance of the Brussels elite. Despite all the frequently expressed anger of voters, all the objections and all the lost referendums, they have only ever had one concern: moving the federal project forward. The nation-state is thought of as an anachronistic expression of xenophobia. Only the European ideal has the moral high ground — and so by definition anything which hinders that ideal should be swept aside.

That means they believe they are acting from the best motives when they ignore opposition. Their opponents are backward and small-minded.

And it means they care not a jot about the human consequences of their plans, whether it is the inability to control immigration, or the impact of the euro on those caught in the economic crossfire. They are all a price worth paying for the European project.

I finally realised that withdrawal was the only way to end this subversion of democracy when I was asked to debate an advocate of leaving. As I constructed my arguments I saw that his arguments beat mine.

Obviously I respect the views of those who wish we were remaining. But I think they are profoundly misguided — especially if they are Jewish.

The fundamental problem with EU membership is that it renders voters in any one nation powerless to change many of the basic aspects of their governance. That’s not just areas enshrined in treaties, such as free movement, but also the vast terrain covered by EU competence — a definition that has grown exponentially since we joined in 1973.

We can already see the consequences in the rise of the far-right across the continent. When voters are ignored and told they have to do what their betters demand, they turn to a supposed saviour.

Marine Le Pen’s rise in France is a product of this. So too is the rise of the German AfD, the Five Star Movement in Italy, Golden Dawn in Greece and so on. As Jews we know who bears the brunt of such “saviours” who promise to represent the views of the hitherto ignored.

Brexit is not the progenitor of intolerance but its antidote.

Stephen Pollard is editor of the JC

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive