Thursday, March 01, 2018

Through the looking glass

Brexit is crumbling before our eyes.

Our Prime Minister declares that no Prime Minister could agree to what she agreed to in December (once it had been written as a legislative draft by the EU). Which means that either she was dodging the issue of the Irish border or she didn't understand what she was signing. In the meantime the government has offered no alternative solutions, other than diversionary idiocy from Boris Johnson.

The leader of the opposition has begun to oppose. He made a speech in which he said that the UK must leave the EU, leave the single market, but join a customs union with the EU. That means that Labour's stance has been modified to allow the free movement of goods but prevent the free movement of people (though without being nasty about them). This is a curious position for a socialist to take. It leaves Labour supporting a policy that has to lead to some form of hard border in Northern Ireland (this can only be completely avoided by being in the customs union and the single market or something very much like it) while opposing it vehemently. The rest of the speech didn't show much understanding of the EU either. Corbyn talked of spending a non-existent Brexit dividend and picked different, juicier and sweeter cherries than the Tories, but it has been made abundantly clear that there can be no cherry picking at all.

OK there was a small positive shift, but it still means the leadership is committed to a pretty hard Brexit and remains resolutely opposed to the desires of the overwhelming majority of its members and voters on the single market. Another curious position.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry came out in support of Labour on the customs union to the fury of the Brexiters.

Then John Major returned to the scene and appeared as an angry and eloquent political titan compared to the current lot. Yes, John Major. This is what we have become. Jacob Rees-Mogg (Eton and Oxford) called Major (Brixton, left school at 16) the elite. Nadine Dorries called him a traitor.

And what is the government doing? Search me. Bugger all if Jon Worth is right.

Why the inaction? There is only a year left. Well, it's a difficult and complicated process - not easy as we were reassured by the Brexit brigade - especially regarding law and trade. But if you set up a series of red lines and contradictory demands, it becomes impossible. Chris Grey gives the best summary overview of the whole dismal process here.

Now we have to face reality. There are no material benefits from leaving. The only prize appears to be the sovereignty to be able to make worse trade deals than the ones we have already through the EU. The zealots' response to discussion of the details ranges from bland reassurance, through wishful thinking, to abuse. As Chris Grey noticed, it's as if we were being expelled from the EU, not that we asked to leave. They can't seem to accept responsibility.

But still we keep going. Why? Ah, the 'will of the people.' This absurd fiction would be laughable if it wasn't rooted in the referendum. But let's get it right. Referendums are a sham of a democratic process. This one took a low salience issue and showed that when asked the question the country was divided almost 50/50. This is not the will of the people. It doesn't give the right for half the voters to impose on the other half something that they don't want in the slightest. There is no talk of finding compromise or a consensus. Reductionist referendums like this are not democratic.

Like a student realising that their essay is due in tomorrow morning, the government has to start to get real. But they don't know what to do faced with a stupid policy and hounded by crazed Brexiters. If they had any sense they would stop it now before it is too late. I am not sure if they will though.

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