Tom Watson played a blinder in his speech to the House during the no-confidence vote. Just look at May’s laughter when he points out the impact of the past thirty months on EU27 citizens living in Britain. Nervous laughter, or laughter at the idea that she’s failed to give them reassurance, or outright indifference: whichever it is, it’s a terrible look.
My own reasons for wanting us to stay in the EU haven’t changed. Every Brexit makes us financially worse off, May’s Brexit or anything short of EEA kills the most important benefit of the EU for me personally, anything short of EU membership really does remove our sovereignty, even crashing out effectively loses our sovereignty because we’ll be at the mercy of every other country on earth, the whole Brexit process has been marching towards a binary choice of crashing out and staying in because the hardcore Brexiters always want more, the entire process has poisoned our relationships with our neighbours in Europe and our European neighbours living here in the UK and the only way to begin to repair those is to stay as close as possible (which if we don’t want to lose actual sovereignty means staying in the EU), a hard border threatens to reignite an awful decades-long civil war in Northern Ireland, anything short of remaining at this point threatens to break up the UK, Leave has been bankrolled and egged on from the start by the sort of shadowy rich bastards who represent everything I hate, poll after poll shows that the young of Britain are overwhelmingly against Brexit and the future of the country depends on how they feel about the place and make life choices in response to those feelings, and the actual conduct of the Referendum has broken British democracy.
The only thing that might repair the damage now is for Leavers to see that they’ve lost the support of the British public, and the only thing that can do that at this point is a new referendum that they lose. Yes, there’s a risk that Remain would lose a new referendum, but that would leave us no worse off than what we’re facing now: either no-deal misery or grudging acceptance of a deal that very few inside or outside Parliament actually want, which may not drive away investment and ambitious young people in the short term but absolutely will in the longer term, long after today’s aging Leavers are gone.
Hirschman noted that consumers or businessmen who become too accustomed to withdrawing can gradually forget how to assert themselves in any other way: “The presence of the exit alternative can therefore tend to atrophy the development of the art of voice.” Perhaps the inverse is true in the democratic arena: where the art of voice has atrophied too much, there is an increasing appetite for the exit alternative.
Another Metafilter member predicted that we’re facing eight weeks of variations on the same old ideas, two weeks of panic, and a rushed-through motion to withdraw Article 50 in the final day or two. My instinct is that they’re right—instincts based on years of helping part-time postgraduate students get extensions when they run into trouble. They have other things going on in their lives, the task at hand is just too big to fit around them, but they really want to finish, and if only they just had more time they think they can... and if they get more time, in many cases it still isn’t enough, and at the last minute they resign themselves to having to accept something less, and pull out. It’s all very human, and all surely rooted in our underlying psychology, which is why readings like Fintan O’Toole’s have been so convincing for me over this whole process.
Some people do pull it off once they get their extension. They burn the midnight oil, they find a way, they somehow get over the line and scrape a pass. But the task has to be one that lends itself to a desperate last-minute push. Some can write a 15,000-word masters dissertation in a week, if they’ve put in just enough work beforehand. Only a superhero could write a PhD in one. This government, as we all know all too well, contains no superheroes. And there’s no such thing as a PhD in Unicorn Studies.