Brexit: A Certain Creek And A Distinct Lack Of Paddling Equipment
I confess, I have reached the point where hope has all but gone, and all that remains is some expletive-filled rage, some shouty capitals, and some fiery bitterness, which may help to keep me warm and cosy in the bleak months ahead. For anyone trying to follow The Brexit Saga: Breaking Down, Part Eleventy Million from abroad, congratulations on making it this far, and no, it won’t make any more sense now than it did before. For the sake of everyone’s eyeballs, I ran this piece through a profanity filter of my own creation. I’m assured that the edits are subtle; you’ll barely notice, honest.
Where I last left you, Theresa May’s deal (Plan A) had been rejected by Parliament, though May survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence tabled by Jeremy Corbyn. Translation: her party hated her plan, but not enough to risk their jobs. They cared about the will of the people only in this one issue, and knew that if they had to fight another general election, the will of the people might just be to tell the Tories to go BEEP themselves with their stupid Brexit. Too much of a gamble. More on that story later. The Tories retreated back to their golden caves, put their thinking caps on and took their allotted three working days to return to Parliament with a different plan.
“Would it be an entirely different plan?”, no-one wondered in earnest. Would it be Canada Plus? Norway? Canada Plus Plus? How Much Plus Would A Norway Plus If A Norway Would Plus Plus? The nation gnawed on their fingernails, quivering with anticipation. And then, Theresa May delivered her Plan B.
Now, this Plan B looked suspiciously like Plan A. Imagine Plan A but with the genius addition of a grimy post-it note on the cover, with the single word ‘amendable’ scrawled in red pen. That’s now what we are calling Plan B. Also known as Plan CBA. (That’s can’t be arsed, for those of you who don’t speak Ancient MSN.) A string of amendments were proposed, most of which weren’t about the deal itself, but instead about re-defining the principles or the timeline. Each one came to a vote in an evening of general parliamentary clusterHONKery last week, an event henceforth known as Brexit Wars: The Farce Continues.
Like a parliamentary game of musical chairs, (but without the fun part where someone falls over, and there’s an accidental lapsy and a prolonged argument about who got there first, and it’s not fair, and for Christ’s sake don’t give them any more sugar, Brian!) MPs duly shuffled through the chamber to the dulcet tones of desperate braying poshos, and Bercow bellowing “ORDER! ORDERRRR!” Again and again they voted on the amendments. And we got to see exactly how cowardly those Tories from paragraph two turned out to be.
I really thought one of the timeline amendments would pass. Sadly not. There was more than one proposal to extend the deadline, to give more time to come up with a plan that wasn’t a now-mouldy meat trifle, and to actually vote on all the legislation that comes with any kind of Brexit at all…. None of these passed. These were the work of traitors trying to prevent Brexit by stealth, apparently. But hey! Good news! MPs rejected the idea of no deal! Hooray! Except…that’s not a legally binding amendment, just an indication of an intent to boo. And it’s a logical nonsense. Remember that the existing deal was rejected. And the deadline hasn’t been extended. So… Do they mean, without a deal, we don’t do the whole Brexit thing? Of course not!
But never fear! The Tories came up with a great proposal themselves: Replace the Irish backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’. Anyone got the faintest SCOOBY DOO what those alternatives are? Hmmm. Is it the technology that hasn’t been invented yet, which Boris thought was a great idea? Is it a border unicorn called Derek, who farts rainbow money? Remember that these are the same people who admitted they forgot that Great Britain is an island with ports and stuff, and then came up with an emergency Brexit plan that consisted of giving millions of pounds to a ferry company that has never done any shipping before and doesn’t actually have any ships. These are the same people who organised a session for lorries to practise queueing up in anticipation of border delays. Practising queueing? Queueing is like the only national sport we are any good at anymore, and even then, we still hate it as much as anyone else, we are just really passive aggressive about it. Suddenly Derek the unicorn looks plausible…
This one passed, because of BEEPing course it did. Because it placated the DUP. Because it allowed the Tories to stay in government. Because it protected their jobs whilst they HONK over everyone else’s. Because it shields them from the will of the people whilst letting them wave a big flag that says ‘We Support The Will Of The People. Yay For The People! No, You Can’t Have A People’s Vote, You Stupid People!’
To sum up, Plan B is basically everything in Plan A, but the mythological alternative arrangement for the Irish border. (Oh god, it’s going to mean trying to conquer Ireland isn’t it?) May now has to see if the EU will OK it. How’s that going? Well… They have already said they aren’t prepared to renegotiate, and that the OG Deal (Plan A) is the only one on that poor, abused, metaphorical table. Meanwhile, there are rumours of a Plan C being quietly developed behind the scenes, but we’ve yet to determine whether this is just Plan B with a bit of tea spilled on it to make it look old and fancy. Ye Olde Planne C.
8 weeks left until the deadline. 8 weeks.
Here’s the thing. The emotive question that keeps being bandied around is ‘Do you respect the outcome of the referendum?’ Honestly? I don’t. It was a crooked referendum and its result is therefore flawed. But the main problem with that question is that it’s the wrong question. It’s a question built on the same toxic dichotomy that has polluted politics in recent years. It’s a question that denies complexity and nuance. It’s a question that ultimately screws all of us.
Our politicians’ duty is twofold: to enact the will of the people, and to make decisions based on what they feel is best for the country. Parties may profoundly disagree on how to do the second part; that is why they have a manifesto, why there are debates, why there are party whips, why there is such a thing as the party line. What we seem to have at the moment is a small group of right wingers who think that Brexit is a good idea, and everyone else who is acting under duress. They can’t in good conscience let it happen, for it breaks their second duty. But to prevent it would be to betray the result of the referendum and undermine faith in democracy. Some of them may worry about that. Many others couldn’t give a toss. Do you think a safe-seat MP cares if Mr Random from Wherever never votes again? They are more worried about the optics of Leave riots on the streets, from those who have promised “blood and slaughter” if the UK doesn’t get its Brexit on pronto, than they are about those same voters suffering in the event of No Deal.
Even those pushing for Brexit can only talk about it in terms of catastrophe. The old World War Two rhetoric is being dusted off for something other than football for a change, calling on the public to summon their Blitz spirit, when in reality we’re bombing ourselves. No Deal is framed as ‘crashing out’ when we’re (allegedly) competent pilots in a functioning plane, but 52 per cent of the passengers voted for no landing gear. At some point, the Brexiteers switched from talking about glory to talking about coping. Why are we committing geopolitical suicide?
It’s time for MPs to make a hard choice. If they had any gumption, this is when they would stop playing Candy Crush for a minute and go on strike. If they had the guts, they could say, ‘You know what? This isn’t working. More people voted to Leave than to Remain, but it’s evident that it can’t be done without causing immeasurable chaos and hardship. We cannot in good conscience go through with this. Let’s start over, with each party proposing a way in which they can address the concerns of the electorate — the ones that led to Leave winning — and have a general election. Let’s put the needs of the country before any selfish desire to cling on to power at any cost.’
But they won’t. Because this is how the Tories want it. They can blame everyone else for the chaos their own party divisions have caused. When the people are suffering, they can say, ‘Well, you voted for this,’ and shrug. In fact, Teflon Theresa is feeling so smug (how? HOW?) that she’s allegedly toying with the idea of calling for a general election herself, immediately after Brexit, in order to capitalise on the whole ‘Will of the People’ bollocks and start a new five year term. “Look, I did a Brexit! Vote for me again!” (Come on, Theresa, last time that didn’t work out so well.)
You know when parents and teachers say ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed’? Well I’m both. This is a dereliction of duty from our government. They don’t care about principles — they are just so scared of Jeremy Corbyn to the left and an angry mob to the right that they will sell their souls to the devil to stay where they are. They don’t give a single solitary crap about food and medicine running out, about the NHS falling to bits, about those living in poverty, about all of the voters who will lose their jobs when all those big companies relocate for less Brexity shores. They just want their shiny green seat in the House of Commons. They want to make people poorer and make them say thank you for it. This, they tell us, is democracy.
And I don’t know if I can ever truly forgive anyone who’s had a hand in this.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and howl into the abyss for a while. I’ve installed a brand new abyss in the back garden for just this purpose — it’s got a lovely little water feature and a jolly garden gnome, and it’s right next to my emergency apocalypse bunker. The neighbours aren’t too pleased about the abyss or the daily howling to be honest, but I’m pretty sure they’re Leavers, so fuck ‘em. Uh, BEEP.
Donald Tusk just said that Boris, Gove and Farage belong in hell!! pic.twitter.com/hFdnl8sbQZ— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) February 6, 2019
Header Image Source: Getty Images
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