I have recently returned from a blissful two weeks of Brexit-free holiday. The time off from the news cycle worked wonders for my overall levels of happiness, but at the same time left me entirely unprepared for what was to greet me upon my return to Britain, also known as The Post-Brexit Land of Milk and Honey and Unicorns and Fairies and Pots of Gold at the End of Rainbows.
The Brexit lies are now truly coming home to roost. The Brexiters have finally been confronted with the fact that we cannot leave the EU without a deal while maintaining a border-free Ireland. Let’s remind ourselves of Daniel Hannan’s tweet on the matter during the referendum campaign: “of all the scare stories propagated by EU supporters, the idea that the UK and Ireland would reimpose borders … is the silliest.” Hmmmm, yes, Daniel.
Meanwhile, it is also finally becoming clear to them that we cannot stay in the Single Market and not have freedom of movement. When the Prime Minister told parliament that the people voted to leave the Single Market, she was either lying or she is delusional. It wasn’t on the ballot paper. In fact, our friend Daniel was joined by the likes of Boris, Nigel and the official Vote Leave campaign in suggesting we would stay in the Single Market or have unfettered access to it. They conveniently left out the bit about this necessitating freedom of movement, because we all know that foreigners are the actual worst, especially when they come here to treat our patients and pick our fruit and pay our government taxes.
In any case, our Prime Minister managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — since the (completely and utterly predictable) Irish border issue scuppering the entire Brexit process would have been a big win from my perspective — when she agreed a deal with the EU to move things on to the next phase of talks, where we will talk about what the talks should include and what Britain actually wants to talk about, because we still do not know that. And when I say deal, I mean complete capitulation to every single thing the EU said it wanted. And whatever she did not cave on, she fudged so that it can come back and bite her at a later stage.
The Great British Brexit Capitulation Deal is a perfect example of what the government has now signed itself up for in dealing with a much more politically agile and experienced negotiating side. Namely, that we will do exactly as the EU asks, because, surprise, surprise (!) it turns out we actually need them more than they need us. Britain accepting the EU’s terms was completely inevitable, because we could never realistically countenance a no-deal scenario that would have grounded our planes and brought many other aspects of daily life to a screeching halt. So every day that has passed between March 29th and December 9th was a complete waste of precious time in which the negotiation took place within the Tory party, and not with our actual negotiating partners. Not only was it a waste of time, it squandered nearly all of the goodwill we might have had and damaged trust and credibility.
Speaking of breaking trust, it still baffles me that David Davis was still in office after two weeks away. Turns out he misled parliament and the British public about the impact assessments and by his own admission, he doesn’t need to be all that clever to negotiate a deal that will have the most profound implications for every man, woman and child living here and for all British citizens in the EU. Moreover, he thinks it’s perfectly alright to go around undermining the Great British Brexit Capitulation Deal just a mere day after his boss painstakingly agreed/fudged it. It’s a fantastic signal to send all our potential future trade partners (yes, I see them, they are patiently queueing up around the block to buy our Stilton) that we don’t really mean anything that we agree upon.
So where does all this leave us? Well, I suppose somewhere in the middle. I have a feeling a cliff-edge ‘no-deal’ is off the table, because the Great British Brexit Capitulation Deal effectively seems to stipulate that no-deal is by default the equivalent of staying in the Single Market or Customs Union, but without any say about the rules, because that is the only way to avoid a border in Ireland. But I also suspect it means that staying in the EU altogether is also less likely, also because of the receding cliff edge. In any case, it seems increasingly like we are moving towards an endpoint where we are effectively in the SM/CU, but without a voice, without any influence and taking rules. So, all this damage to our credibility, reputation, economy, culture — all for ending up in a worse place than we were. Each and every British citizen stripped of rights that many of us were born with, for nothing. Thanks Brexiters, nicely done.
But the worst is now to come. The government still does not know what Brexit means. It does not know what kind of trade deal it wants. The negotiations are being run by Davis, who has now lost all, and I mean all, credibility in Brussels. EU talent is leaving us. The government has no idea what the economic, social and cultural cost of Brexit will be. There are no systematic impact assessments. There is still no durable solution to the Irish border issue. There is still unacceptable uncertainty on the rights of EU citizens here and British citizens in the EU, regardless of the amount of meaningless spin Theresa May puts on it. The government simply has no clear path forward. And the use of words such as “mutiny”, “treachery” or “enemies of the people”, dishonesty and lies continue to weaken the fabric of British democracy and society, creating an environment where some members of the public feel empowered to issue death threats to MPs voting in accordance with their conscience.
So, as the political horror fest of 2017 recedes and we see the impending horrors of 2018, take a breather, spend the festive period in whatever way gives you joy, and gather strength for the fight ahead. It’s very far from over and it’s going to get even uglier, but we cannot afford to stop. Our country needs us.