MACHIAVELLI is more of a moralist than we recognise. Everyone can run off his bon mots about fear and power, but no one bothers to recall his underlying warning - fear the public; you need them. A heavy-handed rule will only get you so far. Do not undertake actions that will offend the sensibilities of society. It is only better to be feared than loved because you cannot supply "freebies" forever. 

And the latest "Brexit transition" videos are a case and point. They're hokey and rife with hawkish gibberish about "taking back control" and "unleashing" our potential. After 40 years, the good times are being ripped away and replaced with empty rhetoric about "significant opportunities". 

Why are they needed at all? Finally, the Brexiteers realise what Remainers knew all along: paperwork for holidays to Spain, roaming charges and snail-pace airport queues are more pressing than bargain bucket notions "sovereignty". 

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The UK Government is playing the oldest trick in the book with how it paints Brexit. Machiavelli knew leaders and governments could be saved or ruined by ideas of "us" and "them". He understood identity politics and how people are vicious in packs when there's a political purpose. The government is igniting a faux collective crisis to burn away the memory of what Brexit it.

Governments need the people; we seldom need them. History is replete with the names for how they've cultivated and fostered it - nationalism, patriotism, manifest destiny, revanchism, irredentism, empire: always, continually, cyclically "us", and "them". 

International Relations has evolved as a field of study to explain power politics. Classical Realism famously purports the international "system" is a continuance of human nature - fearful, reactionary and shattered along identity lines. Higher notions of "idealism" are utterly perfunctory to questions of survival. 

Brexit is viscerally anathema because it goes against the grain of that self-interest. Not only are we giving up the benefits of international cooperation that make us feel safe, but we're also giving up opportunities for our children. If we're not at war or dealing with real economic challenges, then "national survival" is the argument of tyrants: you're against "us" if you're not playing for the "team". Look over there at those Europeans holding "us" back. Look further still at those dangers to "us". 

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It's utterly arrogant to imply "nasty" nationalisms and arguments over race, ethnicity, language and history are a cliche of the Balkans. What we call citizenship is another name for gang warfare in a world of competing interests. For Aristotle, human beings are political animals, with an innate propensity to create and develop more complex communities. There are countless sociological, biological and anthropological arguments which state political affiliation is an inevitability of the human condition.  

Political scientist Alexander Wendt famously built on this, claiming that the "anarchy" of international relations is all human-made. Political groups and states don't just exist before encountering the world; they evolve and change in response to other communities. Our operation within this system is a tactical choice between cooperation, war, defence - and peace. 

All the softly spoken Brexit videos are designed to generate the kind of false unity that is both deluded and dangerous. The Downing Street countdown, the withdrawal coin, the calls for an independence day and now the latest media campaign are all designed to engender the people with a false consciousness that says it's counterproductive to go against it. Social media fact-checking, the contentiousness of the 2016 referendum (to say nothing of devolution and the national stay/leave splits) make it futile.  

Worst of all, there's no excuse for it but to cover-up a monumental folly. We are neither at risk of annihilation or hemmed into a corner. Rightly or wrongly these kinds of national fictions are deployed throughout history to reshape the world. They're the beginnings of wars, the start of revolutions. 

Brexit isn't even that cerebral. It's neither clever nor brave, ambitious nor bold. We must, must see these adverts, these campaigns for the nightmare they are. There's only an ideological illusion that a pyrrhic nationalism is a freedom from - well, freedom from what, exactly?  

The biggest sin we can ever let come to pass is accepting it is unpatriotic to criticise a government because it goes against national morale, national purpose or national unity. That is unequivocally the beginning of tyranny, and governance by diktat. And that is the real lesson in all of Machiavelli's writings.

Alastair Stewart is a public affairs consultant with Orbit Communications. He regularly writes about politics and history with a particular interest in the life of Winston Churchill. Follow him on Twitter at @agjstewart