Depressing Brexit developments over the past fortnight have outpaced my attempts to sit down and construct a post about them. First I was going to write about Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s ignorance about the volume of trade passing through Dover. Then a week later he was gone, resigning over the withdrawal agreement. The latest float in the mad parade is his concession that Theresa May’s Brexit deal would be “even worse” than staying in the EU. Well, of course. Now all we need is a concession that no deal at all would be “even worse” than staying in the EU. Don’t hold your breath.
Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole has been one of the more insightful critics of the whole farrago, writing lately about the paranoid fantasy behind Brexit and how the Brexit chaos is all about England. He’s explained for a US audience how Brexit broke up Britain, and for an Irish one how historians will not believe the sheer ignorance of Brexit supporters. Here he is telling James O’Brien why Brexit was only a game for politicians—it was never meant to actually happen.
Speaking of O’Brien, a remorseful Leave voter called him to admit he was wrong recently, in a heartbreaking clip. And speaking of the sheer ignorance of Brexit supporters, in this Sky News clip of her scathing attack against both the proposed Brexit withdrawal text and the European Union, Nadine Dorries MP says: “This deal gives us no voice, no votes, no MEPs, no commissioner.” aaaaaAAAaaaarrrrrRRRRRgggghhhhh
John Harris in The Guardian wonders why Labour’s leader doesn’t acknowledge that Brexit is a class betrayal. Even Leave voters in fishing villages have finally realised there’s something fishy about it. Spain is threatening to scupper the Withdrawal Agreement over Gibraltar, as was widely tipped by remainers two years ago and ignored by the UK government until this week. Clean-break Brexit is pure fantasy, says a barrister specialising in EU law, competition and consumer disputes, regulatory challenges, and international trade.
Arrangements should allow for the temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes in defined areas.
Mobility arrangements will be based on non-discrimination between the Union’s Member States and full reciprocity. ... The Parties aim to provide, through their domestic laws, for visa-free travel for short-term visits. The Parties agree to consider conditions for entry and stay for purposes such as research, study, training and youth exchanges.
So, travelling to the EU will be on the same basis as travelling to any other western country—visa-free for short tourist visits only—with some provision for business travel in “defined areas”; and for educational purposes, they’ll think about it. And it will all depend on whatever regime the UK government implements: if Theresa May decides that she really dislikes Bulgarians and wants to restrict them to two-week visits and a test on how well they know “God Save the Queen”, then all EU citizens will be restricted to two-week visits and a sing-song, which the EU will then reciprocate. Start brushing up on “Ode to Joy”.
A lot of British people living in Spain, Ireland, France and Germany, to name only the four largest UK-in-EU27 communities, must be considering their position right now. If this isn’t handled carefully, a lot of them could be forced to sell up and return to the UK. And on the evidence of the past 29 months, what’s the chance it will be handled carefully?
As Ian Dunt has artfully put it, we’re on “a conveyor belt towards an abattoir”. Freude, schöner Götterfunken...
The legal verdict in The Spectator is that this is not a bad deal: it is an atrocious deal. Their readers might infer that this makes No Deal preferable, but the sane conclusion is that remaining is far, far preferable. The truth about “taking back control” is that only remaining gives us control, by maintaining our say in EU laws and treaty-making. Any other path gives it away.
But taking back control was always a fig-leaf. Brexit was about ending freedom of movement at whatever cost. Losing Northern Ireland, losing Scotland, losing regional and global influence, losing all economic security, losing our ability to move freely in Europe: all of it deemed an acceptable price for Keeping Out Foreigners.
Maybe parliament will come to its senses and trigger a people’s vote, which seems the only practical way to cut through the “will of the people” impasse. But Corbyn’s calculated indifference to the implications of Brexit makes it just as likely that May’s deal will limp over the line. He may hope that the resulting stagnation will usher in a Labour government in 2022, but how many voters will be thinking what I’m thinking: that they will never be able to vote for an MP who let this happen, whatever party they’re from?
In 2017 my local Labour MP was one of the handful who refused to support triggering Article 50, so I could vote for him to help maintain pressure within the party to shift course. But next time, I doubt that will be enough to outweigh indirectly supporting a leader who was complicit in Brexit.
If we do somehow get a People’s Vote, Remain will need some new slogans. Maybe some that acknowledge how most people just want the whole sorry business to be over, which it certainly won’t be if we leave next March:
- Make this all go away. Vote to stay.
- Let someone else worry about trade deals. Vote remain.
- Bored of borders? You’ll hardly notice them if you vote remain.
- Remember when we hardly ever heard about the EU? Let’s go back to that. Vote remain.
I got off Twitter in September, and stayed off for two months, but this has drawn me back. For all its faults, it’s one of the main sources of sanity about this whole sorry mess.
Added by Rory on 23 November 2018.