It’s January 2019. Two and a half years on from the vote on EU membership in June 2016.
Nothing is sorted. Nothing is exactly clearer. Yet we are told by the government that we will be leaving the European Union on the 29th March come what may. Ha!, a May pun there. Ok a pretty poor one but I’m just reflecting the state of politics and political discourse at present.
I am as unclear about what kind of relationship the majority of Westminster MPs want with the European Union. I am unclear what points the majority of MPs actually agree upon. This seems to be a collection of disparate views battling with each other to disprove the other.
The whole premise of the Leave campaign in 2016 was about taking back control. Where this control would be taken back from would on the surface appear to be Brussels. Taking back control is a snappy slogan I’ll give them that but the details were a bit thin on the ground. The Leave campaign played on the fears of white, bigoted poor people that their country was being invaded by foreigners taking our jobs and living on benefits. Presumably, these same WPB (White Poor Bigots) wanted to make sure the benefit system was there to help people just like them so we shouldn’t be sharing their slice of the pie with foreigners. We should use the money we pay for our membership of the club to fund the NHS. In fact, the famous battle bus claimed it would mean an extra 350 million pounds a week for the NHS. This was of course a lie. The money would never be ring-fenced for NHS spending and the actual figures were inaccurate but hey it was our money! The characters in charge of this snake oil presentation (Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis) repeatedly told voters they could have it all if only we left the EU which in the end dictates the shape of our bananas, Where we can fish, which animals we need to protect and many more cruel invasions of national freedom.
The Remain campaign was a bit more nebulous in its message. It tried positive, secure before moving on to scaring the voters into not upsetting the status quo. However as we know, 2016 was the year that the forgotten masses on both sides of the Atlantic fought back. The result was not expected. The result was a catastrophic fatal blow for the then prime minister David Cameron. He had not seeing coming and ran at the first opportunity after vowing to respect the outcome of the referendum.
Events subsequently led to the appointment of the Maybot. Theresa May, who had campaigned to remain was elected leader of the Tory Party and PM. She was therefore tasked with job of delivering on the result of the referendum. She appointed a cabinet that reflected all sides of her party from pro remain to arch Brexiteer. Boris Johnson was made Foreign Secretary (yep the blond buffoon). The job of securing a deal was given to David Davis. He talked tough and achieved nothing.
You all probably know the sequence of events that have followed to lead us to where we all stand or should I say sit on the fence today. The government vote on the deal failed by a huge margin. The immediate aftermath was claimed as a victory by all sides apart from the government. Theresa May said they would have to listen to all opinions so that a consensus could be reached. She then said she would not budge on any of her red lines of the proposed deal. Labour said it would not talk to her unless she guaranteed a no deal scenario. Naturally, she refused to do so. I assume she wants to keep a threat of a no deal hanging to scare wavering supporters towards her deal. The Liberal Democrats then set about laying into Labour for playing politics which is after all a bit rich coming from the party who had propped up the previous Tory government and was subsequently decimated in the 2017 general election. Nobody wants to appear weak. Nobody wants to appear to be compromising in any way yet everyone has right on their side.
I am a Labour party supporter and have been since 1983. The same year Jeremy Corbyn was elected to Westminster. I admire his principled stance on many issues and feel he is a man with a social conscious devoid in many Conservatives and indeed some within his own party. He will not bow to pressure to do anything that sits awkwardly with his own firmly held beliefs and this is in part a very creditable thing. The problem is however, he will not always move with events. He is a bit like a man who has a front door key for his house but the locks have been changed. Yes, its the front door key but it won’t fit in the new lock. Instead of picking up a new key, he insists on trying the old one.
The biggest failing of our politicians is that they won’t stop talking. They have lost the ability to listen to people and insist on telling us what we should be doing without asking. The government is scared of dividing the Conservative party if they adopt a softer line on Brexit. After all, one argument as to why the referendum was called in the first place was that the Tories feared the rise of UKIP. They promised voters a referendum to appease a far right party. The Labour party is less so but definitely divided between New Labour nostalgia freaks who wished Tony Blair was still prime minister and left wing euro sceptics who see the EU as an oppressive system designed to crush the aspirations of the working class. There are however many in the middle that just want a decent way out of this maelstrom. The SNP are firmly pro EU as was Scotland in the referendum. The SNP however will always have Scottish Independence as a cornerstone of their raison d’être.
As for the DUP, they represent intransigence in the extreme. They were dragged kicking and screaming to the Anglo Irish Agreement, yet now want to take the credit for it’s existence. It was an UUP leader (David Trimble) who took the lead however with Ian Paisley and his DUP zealots reluctantly shuffling behind him. They have their reasons to prop up the Tories apart from the 2bn that May gave them as a sweetener. They voted against the deal last week and supported the government the day after in a confidence vote.
Someone has to move. Ideally, Theresa May must now move to a consensus with the Labour Party in order that this deal goes through. Instead she is attempting to meet individual right wing Labour MPs and Liberal Democrats to a) get her vote through and b) cause division within the Labour ranks. She will not move one centimetre towards the Labour stance of a customs union and free movement but expects everyone to move towards her.
I have never known the country to be as divided as it seems currently. Many are fed up and want the government to get on with it. Get on with what? they’ve taken their eye off the domestic agenda for the best part of two years because of Brexit. The 48% who voted remain probably still wish the 52% had taken holidays in far off spots in June 2016. The 52% think they are the 100% and we should all accept we are leaving.
I love being a European. I love I am part of a large collection of cultures with strong national identities. We are not a far off state of the USA or an isolated island full of rain, disgruntlement and tea. Winston Churchill, the icon of traditional Tories, was a firm believer in closer European integration. It was he who first sent Harold Macmillan to discuss closer ties with the continent. McMillan in turn sent a young minister, Edward Heath to further explore the European dream. It was he who guided our subsequent membership of the common market. Now, 40 plus years later, we are teetering on the edge of leaving. Yet we have no plan on which most can agree, we have no certainty of what might happen or when and we can’t agree to even talk about what we disagree about.
Something has to change. Good luck with that!