So here we are. Eccoci. Parliament has now rejected May’s deal twice and as things stand won’t get a chance to do so a third time. There is no other version of Brexit available and no time, energy or (on the British side) basic wherewithal to devise and negotiate an alternative. Those who ordered this panino alla merda are not going to eat it and in any case the kitchen has now closed.
May used to be admired for her tenacity. An LRB profile from two years ago focused on that quality, making the point that “For her politics is all about following through”. Once given a job to do, she places immense value on carrying it through to the end regardless of any intervening circumstances or potentially regrettable consequences. To take up that metaphor of following through, she is going to shit Brexit out no matter how much strain it takes and how much embarrassment to her reputation it entails. She resembles Trump himself in her psychotic insistence that the buzzing, distorted, out-of-whack reality in her head must prevail despite anything that might be going on on the outside. She triggered Article 50 knowing full well that her party had no plan for an orderly exit and therefore the UK wouldn’t be ready to leave on March 29th 2019. For the last two years she has held to our heads a gun marked in white ink with the words NO DEAL, just so she could fill her gnawing absence of a soul with the sense of herself as someone who gets the job done. It now looks as if she is demented enough to pull the trigger. The country is to be sacrificed for the sake of her self-image.
No one in the country now wants Brexit to take place apart from the Prime Minister herself and a choice selection of ideological fanatics, tax-dodging hedge-fund owners, and outright morons. (We should also include Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay Brothers in that august company – incidentally I see the latter have now brought out the intellectual heavyweights in support of their cause.) The bleating of everyone from government ministers to cowardly Labour MPs to Owen “TELL THEM AGAIN!” Jones to the effect that even a second’s delay to Brexit would provoke widespread revolt and rioting has been emphatically discredited by Farage’s pathetic PR stunt and the total absence of protests outside Parliament in response to MPs voting for an extension*. As someone sagely pointed out, internet bots were never likely to turn out in large numbers to march,sing and bang saucepans together. This lack of popular outrage is tangible evidence that regardless of online bluster the number of actual existing human beings who both understand what a “no deal” Brexit entails and yet still support it is vanishingly small. Eppure, si muove.
As for those Conservative MPs who insist on smashing everything up so that they can play at putting it back together again, this from the New Statesman should help us reflect on just how little they have to lose:
Brexiteers always refer to how much faster countries outside the EU are growing. But this is like giving up your solid 40-hour-a-week day job to work just one-hour-a-week for a rapidly expanding firm for the same hourly pay.
Of course, Raab, Rees-Mogg, Farage and all the rest do not have and have never needed 40-hour-a-week jobs. Corbyn, whose decision to set his alarm for 6am on June 24th so he could go on TV and call for immediate implementation of Article 50 absolutely fucked over the entire country, may not share their access to country estates or offshore hedge funds but he does have an allotment and the most secure job in North London: Official Leader of the Official Opposition. Yet over the last few weeks he seems like someone who barely has enough energy and willpower to water his turnips, let alone oppose the fucking Government and defend democracy against a far-right coup.
Until yesterday I thought the only two remaining options were: a) a referendum to ratify or reject May’s deal or b) revoking Article 50 immediately. Ratify or Revoke, based on the Kyle/Wilson amendment, would have been a good slogan if there were to be another parliamentary vote. Now her deal is beyond reviving and she seems to have finally surrendered to the desire of the British equivalents of Mao and Pol Pot for a Year Zero, for the no deal Endlösung which was their only objective all along. Hence the principle message of Saturday’s march must be: “You have failed. Brexit has failed. Revoke it and resign.” And if Corbyn wants to go down in what’s left of human history as anything other than a witless dupe of international fascism, he will be at the head of that march, rather than spending the afternoon weeding his allotment or making yet another stupid, stupid speech about Brexit being a mere “constitutional question“. Life and death are “constitutional questions”, fffs. Which side is he on?
* The odd pantomime fascist on Sky News notwithstanding, there is no equivalent to the gilets jaunes in the UK. Brexit was not primarily a result of the immediate economic anxieties that led disaffected French smalltowners to block roads and riot in Paris, Bordeaux and elsewhere, detailed by Jeremy Harding here. It is rather a distinctly unappetising stew of xenophobic resentment and post-imperial self-pity, a dish particular to British cuisine. Alienation from globalisation was one ingredient stirred into the pot by the ultraleftist opportunists of the SWP et al, but it certainly wasn’t the most powerful one. The toxic additives poured in by the Leave campaigns, with their 5.2 gypsies about to arrive from Turkey, their polar bears and NHS lies etc etc etc left a particularly bitter aftertaste. But en fin de compte, while the French are angry because they don’t have jobs and their public services are shit, the British are pissed off because their country isn’t nearly as significant as they think it should be.
Ps. I’m not on Twitter, could someone please post this on there with the hashtag “#lexit”?