I apologise. Normally this blog tries to ring the changes, tries to be informative and even entertaining, as well as highlight the heavier political issues of the day. But less than five weeks to go to Brexit and nobody yet has any clear idea what will happen on March 29th. The Westminster parliament is as divided as the country a to the right solution. Barring some Churchillian leadership magically appearing from the shadows in ou hour of need, there is every sign that both Labour and Conservatives are fragmenting, rather than consolidating around one clear and plausible idea.
That there would be heated debate after such a 48-to-52 split as the 2016 referendum was predictable, even necessary. But, instead of staying out of the negotiations and adopting a coordinating role where Theresa May could include other parties and had the moral authority to bang heads in her own, she kept cards close to her chest, undermined successive Brexit minsters and hatched an unacceptable deal in secrecy and too late. Had her Labour opposition risen to the challenge, done their homework on how the EU works, sounded magisterial and closed ranks around a plausible alternative, then 65 million Britons would not be threatened by an economic disruption on a scale unknown to any of them.
Westminster, which has long touted its civilised combination of democracy and tradition, has singularly failed to resolve this crisis, What is worse, the British media, so used to its conventions, is feeding its audiences a populist partial story, as if Britain wee the wronged party and the othe 28 EU members were the villains. The flurry of motions, amendments, defections and plots surrounding Westminster have been the focus of reports and the impression given that if, by some miracle, harmony were to break out at Westminster, all would be well. If, by an even more unlikely miracle, Theresa May’s “Deal” were to cone back from the dead and its crushing 100+ defrat, that might be true.
But every other offer under discussion assumes that Britain can dictate to its soon-to-be-former colleagues. Nobody id liyrning to the absolutely consistent message from Brussels. Thought hey rehret being brought to this pass and they deprecate the economic disruption this will cause their members, the EU ain’t budging. Yjrot position:
- Backstop? Can’t be fudged, shortened or terminated unilaterally
- Delay date? No point if Britain offers nothing new that they agree on/
- New deal/compromise? No: this one took ages and has many concessions already
The only agreement Westminster was able to find—that they would take this Deal if the Backstop were altered—is doomed. Not only was it not clear what alterations would be acceptable to the British, but it completely ignored the unwavering position of the Irish (backed bu the whole EU) that the Backstop, as given, was the only way to guarantee the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Theresa May’s attendence Sharm-el-Sheik this weekend was both a fool’a errand and window dressing to mask her helplessness.
It should be touching that so many MPs are searching their conscience about what they should do. Some are backing the Cooper-Letwin Amendment; some argue for a People’s (i.e. second) vote. It’s all too late. MPs are so immersed in their own self-importance, convinced Westminster runs the world, that none seem to realise the impotent irrelevance of all of their efforts. Shiploads of British goods are already at sea with superceded customs forms. MPs might as well be medieval churchmen, debating the number angels that can dance on a pinhead. Meanwhile the British public are being hoodwinked by a story of intransigent foreigners we’d be better off without. Nowhere are the huge benefits the EU has brought to the Continent—let alone to Britain—being highlighted, much less the real puzzlement and sorrow why Britain would want to isolate itself from friends to resuscitate a dead imperialist dream.
Five hundred years of civilisation later, we appear to have developed only to the point where Brexit debate is blockheads dancing on pinheads—to the despair of the people whose interests they are thereby ignoring.