Yes, this topic has reached tedium, and far as normal people (i.e. non-anoraks) are concerned. But the whole kerfuffle just reached its watershed, with a slippery slide to conclusion laid out before us like the proverbial patient etherised upon a table. The last week has seen a flurry from the main dramatis personae of this national drama of ours. Rehearsals are over; opening night’s behind us; and, though the ending remains murky, the whole thing is playing out as a tragedy.
Don’t just take my word for it—the most potent arguments pro and con have been deployed with 12 months to go. Compared to the draft legal document tabled by a united EU this week, the ones who started it are all over the place. With a 17 million vs 16 million outcome in the 2016 referendum, this is no surprise. Yet examining the various cases being made, what is striking is that Remain arguments our court hearing and consistent while Brexiteers deploy an emotional spectrum of chaos.
The latter do have form on this. Starting with wild pronouncements like £350 million per week extra for the NHS, they have indulged in implausible assertions: being able to stitch a trade agreement together in an afternoon; that the Irish border could be dealt with like that between Westminster and Camden. Examine who is leading their charge, and you understand why this is. Theresa May is a steady (i.e. unimaginative) hand who makes heavy weather of leadership.
Squabbling behind her back is a reincarnation of Billy Bunter and his chums. Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg remain incarnations of the smug swot who wound up gettung scragged behind the bike shed—usually by people like Boris Johnson. Perhaps there determination not to get scragged in the Commons is why they exude political opportunism the way they used to swear. Eachexpounds Brexit like a mantra—but none seem to spend even five minutes in each other’s company to agree what it means. They each believe a 52-to-48 margin constitutes a landslide endorsement. But quite how rejection of European partnership can lead to better trade deals then we already have varies by whichever Brexiteer you listen to. Names, numbers, dates and other specifics are typically absent.
This is poor protection from the heavy guns recently pounding them, none of whom need fret about political ambition any more. Tony Blair, John Major and Michael Heseltine are heavyweights, none of whom have been slavish fans of the EU. Their recent interventions all cogently argued the same thing: that hard Brexit is unnecessary, damaging and rides roughshod over the wishes of half the country. They cite economic sources who all forecast declining affluence the further we push our European neighbours away. There are certainly flaws in how the EU operates. But to see the big picture, the table below pulls together six of the best arguments made recently on either side of the argument,
You don’t believe me? Compare and contrast for yourselves
|Theresa Nay||Speech at Mandion House Friday March 2nd||Tony Blair||Speech at European Policy Centre on Thurs 1st March 2018|
|Boris Johnson||Speech at Coffee House Weds February 14th||John Major||Speech to Creative Industries Federation om Thur 1st March 2018|
|Michael Gove||Essay in The Independent Tuesday 20th Feb||Michael Hesseltine||“Voices” column in The Independent|
|Liam Fox||“Road to Brexit” speech Tuesday 27th February||Jeremy Corbyn||Spectaytor Coffee House, report Sunday Feb. 25th|
|Jacob Rees-Mogg||Reburs John Major in The Expressm Thu March 1st||Phillip Hammond||“UK Needs Trade Agreenebt: Tuesday 27th February|
|David Davis||“Foundation of the Future” speech Tuesday 20th February||Carolyn Fairbairn (CBI)||CBI Position Speech Sunday January 21st|