What happens when evidence emerges that contradicts a deep-held view? Some people react by holding two contradictory views at once, but that is mentally painful, and that is called cognitive dissonance. Others react by denying the evidence. Right now, in the UK, who knows, maybe across the world, politics and the reaction of the electorate, has fallen – it hasn’t descended into the gutter so much as descended into a kind of fairy tale world, one in which the narrative that people subscribe to is maintained by denying evidence, even when error stares them in the face. The UK is not seeing election fever, it is seeing election cognitive dissonance.
The EU costs the UK £350 million a week we were told during the EU referendum – that works out at £18.2 billion a year. Now we are told that the cost to the UK in leaving the EU – the so-called divorce bill, will be around 100 billion euros – or about £84 billion. It kind of blows up the argument that the UK will be better off – although in business terms, forking out 84 billion to save 18.2 billion is quite a good deal. But then, after taking into account the rebate that the UK received from the EU and the money it got back through EU funding of UK projects, then the true cost of the EU was nearer £5.2 billion. But maybe the actual numbers are less important than this point: it is now nigh on impossible to reconcile the idea that the UK will save money by leaving the EU. In fact, if we try such a reconciliation, we may get cognitive dissonance.
Before the referendum, we were told that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU – such statements totally ignored the fact that EU’s exports to the UK made-up a small part of its GDP, UK exports to the EU made-up a higher proportion of its GDP. But the lies stuck. Now the EU talks tough, makes it clear that the UK must pay a price for its decision to leave – otherwise what’s the point of the EU – if you can get all the benefits of the club without being a member.
So how does the UK react? Theresa May seems to offer nothing short of blood, toil, tears and sweat – but it will be worth it, to fight off the tyranny of the evil empire that is the EU, an empire so evil that it tries to enforce human rights upon its members – but we shall never surrender!
And when Jean Claude Junker says that the UK prime minister lives in a different galaxy, the blogosphere lights up with indignation – how very dare he, doesn’t he realise how much the EU needs the UK? This bureaucrat is only interested in saving his own skin and protecting the salary he gets from the EU, they say. Instead, he needs to understand that the UK is the most important member of Europe and that the EU owes the UK a debt, after it stood up to the evil of the Nazis. Do you see how denying what is in front of you is better than cognitive dissonance?
Mrs May then says something quite clever – she turns the Junker comments to her advantage. After denying that the meeting with Jean Claude had been difficult as the German press would have us believe, she said that she will be a “bloody difficult women”. All of a sudden, she sounds more like Churchill, talking tough – we will fight you on the beaches if we have to Mr Junker.
Odd how the arguments that the UK leaving the EU will be a civilized affair and mutual interests will win through, gets forgotten.
When the warnings of Project Fear start to come true, the EU takes on the image of George Lucas’s Sith – or Tolkien’s Sauron. Sure, leaving the EU will be hard, but better pay that price and save our soul.
Diane Abbot’s tongue slips, mental maths when you are being grilled live on the radio is very, very difficult, if you don’t believe that, try it sometime, and she gets pilloried in the press. Regardless of your thoughts on Jeremy Corbyn, and it is not hard to find faults, the Abbot faux pas was about as big a deal as the move by the EU to force straight bananas on us – which isn’t true, by the way.
You could say it is all nonsense. The UK and EU are just posturing, or that Jean Claude Junker and Theresa May are simply applying what Donald Trump might call the Art of the Deal. The one hundred billion divorce bill may end up being 20 billion or so, and Mrs May will be hailed as a hero for getting the price down – whereas 12 months ago, the very idea that the UK would have to pay so much to extricate itself from the EU would have been greeted with horror – or denial.
But then Cognitive Dissonance hurts, better to deny the facts that are staring at us than try and grapple with mounting evidence that most of what we were told about the glories of leaving the EU were not so much from a different galaxy, rather they came from Fairy Tale land.