Four working days into life in Thethickofitstan, I can’t shake off the fear that all parties need to proceed extremely cautiously or risk Britain becoming a quasi-fascist state; not the full Third Reich, perhaps, but potentially Pinochet’s Chile. The fact that polls are suggesting that Regrexit is a statistical blip suggests that a large population in England and Wales would be perfectly happy if a strongman (or woman) emerged from the political chaos to enact Brexit in Full come hell or high water. And not any soft Brexit that keeps freedom of movement intact: something that closes the borders and sets the timer ticking on when EU citizens who are already here must leave.
When I moved to Britain many people here were still, to an unhealthy degree, clinging to the stereotypes of World War II, and fifteen years later you still hear jokes about Germans and their authoritarian tendencies. Well, that’s another thing that Brexit should put to bed, because nobody in Britain should now wonder how a civilised people could inadvertently hand power to racists and demagogues. I fear (and I hope it’s only a fear, and nothing more) we’re watching it in action.
I don’t mean that the strongman/woman is necessarily one of the current MPs. They can’t put off a General Election forever.
Meanwhile, Spain’s prime minister has poured cold water on the prospect of any Scottish negotiations with the EU before a final Brexit so that Catalonia and the Basques don’t get any ideas, ruling out any prospect of a seamless transition within the EU and potentially condemning Scotland to years in the wilderness while it reapplies.
Blocking separatist movements among EU members to discourage your own is one thing (and concern about Spain doing that was one reason many in Scotland voted No in 2014), but blocking countries that have effectively separated from non-members makes no sense. We seem to have ended up in a situation where if England and Wales declared independence from the United Kingdom, leaving Scotland and Northern Ireland as a rump UK within the EU and them out of it, Spain would presumably be happy (because Scotland and NI won’t be the ones doing the separating), but if Scotland and/or NI declare independence from a Brexiting UK specifically to remain in the EU, Spain won’t be happy.
I’m still holding out hope that a go-slow by the Cabinet Office will save us all.