Is it really not even three weeks since the referendum? So much has changed in such a short time, and tomorrow we’ll have a new Prime Minister installed, a woman who’s record points towards more right than centre on the political spectrum (voted against the repeal section 28, and more recently declared her ambitions to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights) somehow became the Liberals preferred choice when the other runners and riders for the role came forward.
In my last post I said I had a sneaking suspicion that Article 50 wouldn’t be invoked, suggesting that, like Leicester, it was a rank outsider that might just come good in the long run. That was in the halcyon days when Boris Johnson was favoured to be the next Prime Minister and appeared to be doing everything he could to undo the mistake he appeared to realise he had made by leading such a successful Leave campaign. Now the possibilities of not leaving the EU seem more like Tottenham Hotspur’s chances of winning the 2015/16 Premier League – unlikely at the start, then hopes raised before failing comically at the last.
Theresa May has said that “Brexit means Brexit”, but given that no one wants to say what Brexit actually means, beyond that recursive statement, there’s still much to play for, and it’s making for a fascinating period in politics.
Now, fascinating can be taken in many different ways. I don’t want that to be taken as an indication that, ultimately, I am happy with where we are – I most certainly am not. Nor that I am happy with the direction we are heading. I would say this is fascinating in the same way that studying the decomposition of your own severed hand would be fascinating – I didn’t want the hand severed, I feel I should probably be doing something more about it, but given the significant lack of options, I may as well see what I can learn from the horrific process while it’s going on.
The leadership ‘race’ was like the worst Hunger Games movie ever made, in which each contestant was suffering from manic depression and instead of successive fights to the death they decided to kill themselves in a variety of mundane ways. In the case of the Conservative leadership race it seems that everyone’s mode of suicide was ‘being themselves’ and the last woman standing, Britain’s Jennifer Lawrence, is Theresa May. Can’t we have J-Law instead?
Now, despite being the liberal’s choice, don’t be fooled by T-May’s promises of uniting Britain, sorting out our economy and sticking up for the working man. These are the same things David Cameron was saying back when he was elected party leader in 2005 and he’s just leaving number 10 as probably the worst Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain, having failed to hit any of his targets self-imposed and unnecessary targets, made the country poorer, reduced social mobility, increased inequality, made further education the most expensive in the world from a standing start, and split the country in so many different ways it’s a wonder anyone likes anyone else anymore. I suppose you could say the only way is up, until you realise we are currently part of the EU, with freedom of movement and all of the other benefits it brings, so don’t think things are going to get better any time soon.
Sorry, that’s rather bleak, isn’t it? So what are our options from here? Is there anything to get excited about? Well, assuming that “Brexit means Brexit” means invoking Article 50, the first question is when that will happen. Obviously the world wants us to do this as quickly as possible, but we are under no obligation to stick to any timescale. With significant elections happening in Europe in 2017 (including in Germany and France, the other members of Europe’s big 3, along with the UK for now), there’s an argument for waiting until those have been completed to make the negotiations easier. At the very least, waiting until the New Year seemed to be on the cards, but right now, who honestly knows? A possibility has also been raised of the ability to revoke the decision within the 2 year negotiation period, but it might take some legal trickery to pull that one off.
There is also the question of legal challenges being made that suggest the Prime Minister can’t invoke Article 50 without the go ahead of parliament – it being unclear whether this includes both the Commons and the Lords. The case has been made in both directions and it’s safe to say I don’t fully understand either, but given that many MPs seem to be taking the route that “the people voted Brexit so that’s what I must do if it comes to a commons vote” (something I know the MPs of friends have communicated to them), this doesn’t look too hopeful either.
That said, the argument I made to my own MP when I felt she might be faltering in this direction maybe slightly more persuasive. I would be upset losing this referendum under any circumstances, but it’s not being a bad loser to decry the tactics played by the opposition in this case. This would not be like Cristiano Ronaldo getting upset with ‘defensive’ Iceland after their draw at the Euros. Iceland played within the rules and there is a strong (undeniable?) case that the Leave campaign did not. The promises made were not promises, they were suggestions, ideas, possibilities (they were lies). If the Remain campaign had promised everyone in the country a Mercedes, they would not have been less truthful.
The fact is that the Leave campaign was operating like Lance Armstrong – does he deserve to keep his tour victories because he won at the time or should he have lost them when the truth was revealed? Of course, the frustrating thing for most people on the Remain side is that we knew they were lies and we told people they were lies, but apparently we were “suckered in by Project Fear” rather than Project Reality. Yet now we hear of university researchers being excluded from projects because EU partner organisations don’t know whether we’ll still be eligible for funding. And so the brain drain begins (though given the result, not to mention level of the debate, you could reasonably make the argument that it began long ago).
The thing I don’t understand is why there is no investigation into this? I appreciate that the Chilcott enquiry has taken 7 years to return it’s (very thorough) verdict, but this is of arguably greater importance to the future of the country and no one thinks we should look into the manner of the campaign and whether it was conducted on a level playing field?
Here’s a counterpoint. In June, a public vote takes place, shortly after which it is revealed that the victor was involved in deceiving the public. There is widespread outrage. Those at the centre of the deception are tabloid fodder for days and the story is covered by all the broadsheets too. An investigation is launched and, eventually, a guilty verdict is reached. The year is 2015 and ITV are found guilty of deceiving the public, paving the way for Jules O’Dwyer and Matisse to win Britain’s Got Talent. Now obviously that was much more scandalous – the public had to pay £1 per vote, while the votes in the EU referendum were free – but I still feel like there should be some kind of public enquiry into how a campaign on such a serious matter should be allowed to be conducted on the basis of such lies.
I have made this case to my MP and it felt like it was taken on board. Whether or not that matters, given the signs of resignation from many in the Remain camp, remains to be seen, though the Lords may be a different matter. They are unelected, and so perhaps less concerned with upsetting the public, and have proved surprisingly useful in a few votes in recent years. I’m not holding out hope, mind.
So what kind of a deal might we end up with? I think it’s pretty pointless to try to predict right now. We don’t know when it’ll happen, who will be involved (apparently we have too few trade negotiators in this country so may need to draft them in from abroad – those Barmy Brussels Bureaucrats may soon be doing our deals for us), or anything else about the process. I think the one thing we do know is that whatever kind of deal we get, it’s only going to satisfy about 1% of the population.
I mean, we’re on the weaker side of the negotiating table so if we get access to the single market (which seems to be a pre-requisite from almost everyone who’s spoken on the subject) we’re going to have to keep freedom of movement – perhaps a deal which walks back the frankly unprecedented deal David Cameron negotiated on freedom of movement prior to the vote. So that’s anyone who voted for immigration unhappy. In fact, the single market, means we’ll have to abide by the EU laws we apparently don’t like as well, so those sovereignty voters will be out of luck. Likewise if you wanted the country to save money, well that was a lie, for starters, but also access to the single market will cost us. Meanwhile, the Remain camp will obviously be unhappy regardless because any deal that gets done will be worse than the one we had as members of the EU.
The only other option appears to be to get out of everything and go it alone, but I struggle to believe any rational Government could consent to trying to do that kind of deal. Given that new trade deals with the EU alone would take a minimum of 4 years to negotiate, and then there’s the rest of the world (logistically we couldn’t negotiate with everyone all at once), it would risk crushing the economy of this country and setting us back 30 years.
To be honest, part of me had been hoping that Andrea Leadsom might end up taking the Tory Party leadership. I mean clearly she’s insane (not in any actual way relating to her sanity, but in a “all of her opinions and public offerings seem to be diametrically opposed to mine and any right-thinking individual” kind of way, though we’ve recently seen how many fewer right seeking individuals there appear to be compared to what we once thought), but it would have continued the fascinating theme.
And no, before you ask, it wouldn’t have been like looking at my other severed hand decompose. Reports circulate briefly over the weekend that Tory party members fearful of the possibility of a Leadsom-led party and Labour party members in increasing despair at the reign of Jeremy Corbyn were talking about breaking off from their respective parties and joining in the middle somewhere. Of course, this would have been in the middle between two right of centre parties, one slightly more right of centre than the other. The prospect of essentially all parties going into proper meltdown and the possibility of the complete reinvention of politics in this country briefly had me excited. And then Leadsom pulled out yesterday, dashing any of those hopes completely.
And yet… The Liberal Democrats have already come out and said that their primary policy will be to either stop the UK leaving the EU or getting us to rejoin the EU in the event that we leave, which sets up a potentially fascinating election in 0-4 years time (yes, it’s due in 2020, but everything has gone batshit mental so I’m not going to predict we’re going to be waiting that long for it to happen). There’s the possibility that no one will want to Vote Tory because they don’t like the Brexit deal negotiated (or the fact that one had to be negotiated at all), and no one will vote Labour because of the implosion they are going through shows no sign of abating. OK, so the Corbyn-ites will vote Labour but everyone else will abandon them, possibly including their MPs. UKIP will keep their stubborn band of supporters but fail to bring any more along with them. And meanwhile the Lib Dems could sneak up around the outside. At the very least we could have a parliament split three ways and with no one willing to share power with anyone else.
Actually, make that four ways. There’s the SNP to consider, a party who, I honestly believe, if they put up candidates in each constituency outside Scotland would have a decent chance of taking the entire country. And that would answer a big question about the fate of the union – I mean why would they need to vote for independence if they already ran England as well?
So, what to make of all this? I don’t fucking know. I vacillate between anger, despair, resignation and fascination constantly. Strangely, like many of those who voted Leave, I have never felt so disenfranchised. As Homer Simpson once said – “When will people learn, democracy doesn’t work”. I’m not a great believer in dictatorships but fuck it, put me in charge and let me do what I want and I’ll sort it out. If everyone just did what I want them to do this would all be much better.
But seriously, despite the disenfranchisement, there’s a possibility for a decent future, but only if we don’t forget, only if we keep the pressure on, only if we keep reminding those in charge that, ultimately, we are in charge of them. Having written to my MP now, I’ve got the bug. I will be putting pressure on her over issues. I will be expressing my concern over the way things are run and making it clear that my vote is earned and that people in this country do care and won’t let people do what they want. The more they hear from constituents stating their desires and their requirements, the more likely they are to take that on board and to adjust policy positions. So I would encourage everyone to write, and to write about everything that you feel matters.
And if all that fails, you should remember that, in the end, it will all be OK. I am, of course, talking about the inevitable heat-death of the universe. It comes to us all.