The day after the Referendum Jeremy Corbyn went on TV and called not for a moment of national reflection or for a countrywide debate on what sort of Brexit ‘we’ might want, but for the immediate implementation of Article 50. Farage et al demanded much the same thing, and when the new PM uttered the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’, it was clear there would be no discussion as to what sort of future relationship the UK would have with the EU and how the process of leaving would be managed.
As we know, this suited those who had manipulated the vote perfectly. Dominic Cummings had based his strategy on avoiding at all cost any specific details of what ‘leaving’ would mean. Thus both leave campaigns, with their sad polar bears and fake NHS pledges and lies about Turkish adhesion, were little more than a Rorschach blot made not of ink but of pure horseshit (on toast).
However, this goes both ways. Brexiters have so far been given carte blanche to interpret the vote as freely as they like, even to the point of arguing from very early on that a mature democracy with an advanced economy should not even bother to negotiate the process of disentangling itself from a bewilderingly complex set of relationships, agreements and arrangements. May’s appeasing of the hard-right fanatics now leads us to the point where we are effectively being held with a gun to our collective head by our own Government. It’s like a shopping centre siege; cameraphone footage smuggled out showing the damage already done indicates that parts of the complex will have to be rebuilt from scratch. And the reason May won’t stand up to the ideological terrorists of the ERG is that she’s actually quite sympathetic to many of their core values.
Here’s the thing: May is the Brexit Prime Minister. She’s theirs. Her Brexit is their Brexit*. There is no other possible version. They had two years, and this is where they got to. They may not like the destination, but it was their idea to take this trip in the first place. Of course, we know that no Actually Existing Brexit agreement would have been acceptable to Cummings, Raab, Farage, Francois, Rees-Mogg etc. Their bluff has been called. It’s a tragedy and a disgrace that both Labour, what’s left of the Left and (although I hate the phrase) the mainstream media (particularly the BBC**) have given any credence whatsoever to the notion of a “no deal” final solution. This point should not have to be made on a bloody blog, but it’s one that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere: this must come down to a choice between May’s deal, or no Brexit. Whether that takes the form of a ‘people’s vote’ is to some extent moot: there are more than enough lunatics and cowards in Parliament to block a second referendum. Why that campaign has not called a mass demonstration so far this year remains an absolute mystery. If I had the power to do so I would gather as many people as possible together under the slogan ‘OH, WE THOUGHT YOU WANTED BREXIT, BUT IT SEEMS YOU DON’T. #OHWELL‘. After all, someone who ordered a shit sandwich from room service for a late-night drunken joke would be unlikely to want to eat a real one in the morning.
* There is, of course, inevitably, a conspiracy theory that’s popular on the far-left/far-right/who-can-tell-the-difference-these-days, according to which Theresa May is a secret remainer, which is why she appointed her top-secret undercover agent David “Destiny!” Davis to negotiate on the Government’s behalf. Cunning creatures, these (cough!) “lizards”.
**And particularly Question Time, which has been getting pretty bloody Nuremberg-y of late.