No-deal Brexit and ‘acting as if’


I’m sure someone like Zizek would have something of interest to say about the government’s almost certainly ill-fated pretence that they are serious about leaving the EU without a deal. It may go something like this: the purported audience for the no-deal charade is the EU leadership. (I think threatening them to renegotiate might be what linguists call the illocutionary force.) However, as John Harris has reported here, the actual (unintended) audience for the no-deal rhetoric is lots of angry people across the UK who voted to leave but who no longer trust anything the liberal media tells them*. (That’s the perlocutionary effect.) They now believe that no-deal is not just a plausible but a desirable option, and are immune to any appeal based on pointing out that their desire to get Brexit over with so we can all get on with our lives will make it impossible to get on with our lives. Major companies are also putting contingency plans together, including, one can only assume, sacking all their UK staff, despite Philip Hapless Hammond having phoned them up last week to tell them it was all a big massive jape. This plays straight into the hands of the full-on ideological psychopaths who never actually wanted Brexit to ‘work’, but who see it as an excellent means to create chaos, seize power and implement their Pol Pot-esque Shock Doctrine agenda: Farage, Raab, Cummings, Rees-Mogg and so on. (You could also add to that list certain power-crazed sociopaths who genuinely do not give a fuck what happens as long as they stand a chance of becoming PM – no need to name names on that score.)

In recovery fellowships they talk about ‘acting as if’: pretend that you’re an emotionally healthy person who doesn’t need a drink to get out of bed, and eventually, one day at a time, you will be. In various other fables, the wind suddenly backfires and the wolf mask you only ever donned for a lark is stuck to your face for good, and so on. Or, in the more deftly-chosen words of Kurt Vonnegut, “we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”. Ultimately, once the government has stopped absolutely wasting everyone’s fucking time, the country will end up doing whatever suits the interests and prejudices of Rupert Murdoch and his friend Steve Bannon, although in this case it will, bizarrely, be the SWP and the Morning Star wot believe they won it. The question of whether Prime Minister Rees-Mogg will end austerity overnight and appoint George Galloway Minister for Catsuits first thing in the morning is, at this point, moot. (I’d imagine he’ll probably enjoy a leisurely breakfast of duck-eggs-on-soldiers served up by “nanny”, surveying his legoland country estate, as the rest of the country starts to riot and starve to death.) But the pro-Brexit Left certainly deserves some sort of reward, because if it hadn’t been for the feinted left hook that was the ‘Lexit’ campaign, the hard right wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it has been in implementing what is basically a slow-motion coup au visage de la démocratie, the eventual outcome of which will lie somewhere between Pinochet 1973 and Johnson 2005.

As for Corbyn, his party’s manoeuvres to stave off a nightmare Brexit are welcome, but if Labour had started much earlier on demolishing the case against a no-deal outcome, it might have stood much more of a chance of success. Right now he’s going against the tide – starting today’s PMQs by mentioning Holocaust Memorial Day is bound to be greeted in some quarters with fears that he might, heaven forfend, upset the far-right….

*Although of course they’re happy to take as gospel any old shit Russia Today posts on their Facebook feeds, and as for The Sun, well it’s the Sun innit.

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