'That slippery concept of sovereignty provided a superficially moral justification for many supporters of Brexit'
Lord (Chris) Patten, the former Conservative party chair, has launched an attack on fellow Tories, “right-wing English nationalists” and elements of the press who are seeking to drive through Brexit having used immigration to win the referendum two years ago.
The leading Catholic, who is a trustee of The Tablet, said that voters abandoned their usual focus on economic evidence for the “slippery concept of sovereignty”. But, he added, immigration was “undoubtedly” the “cutting edge” for the Brexit campaign.
The senior peer, who is helping the House of Lords attempt to block a “hard” Brexit, claimed that some “squeamish Brexiteers” gave the impression that “they were mildly in favour of global Britain provided that [the former UKIP leader Nigel] Farage and right-wing Conservatives could be left to make clear that this did not mean anyone foreign coming to live in our island home.”
Giving the annual Iveagh House Lecture in Dublin on Wednesday, 27 June, Lord Patten made several references to Mr Farage, the appeasement of whom he said led to the referendum being granted. “Taking a rather stronger line on Mr Farage’s manifest duplicity was hardly ever tried,” Lord Patten said. “Trying to manage right-wing ideologues by feeding them occasional morsels of Euro-bashing was never likely to do any more than increase their appetites.”
Responding, Mr Farage told The Tablet: “Maybe the duplicity is more on the side of Lord Patten and his generation, selling us the common market which became political union – that’s duplicitous.”
In his lecture, Lord Patten was due to say: “That slippery concept of sovereignty provided a superficially moral justification for many supporters of Brexit, especially I suspect older ones, to abandon their adherence to the customary relationship between economic evidence and voting intentions, which still matters a great deal to their children. Undoubtedly, immigration was the cutting edge for the Brexit campaign, to the subsequent embarrassment of some of the more squeamish Brexiteers, who had given the impression that they were mildly in favour of global Britain provided that Mr Farage and right-wing Conservatives could be left to make clear that this did not mean anyone foreign coming to live in our island home.”
The former UKIP leader said: “People like Lord Patten like mass immigration as it provides cheaper workers for their friends in this country but it has completely upset the fabric of our society – if he went and met some ordinary people he might understand. I can’t see how my total and absolute opposition to this political project has ever been anything but open honest and transparent – a long way from the word duplicity.”
The moderate Tory lamented that the British are “prisoners” of hasty decisions already taken by the Theresa May government. “I remain surprised that right-wing English nationalists did not know what should happen the day after the castle was successfully stormed,” he said. “We are two years down the road. We have about 9 months to go before the bell rings for our exit.”
Lord Patten, who was the final Governor of Hong Kong from 1992-1997, also said that Britain has failed to accept that it is no longer a “top dog” and is instead “a middle ranking country” and “not a global power”.