By NICK O’HEAR.
IN WILLY RUSSELL’S Educating Rita, Frank explains “tragedy is something that is absolutely inevitable, preordained almost.” This week’s vote on Theresa May’s Brexit ‘deal’ was inevitable but not a tragedy because no harm has happened to anybody or anything.
However, it was all inevitable. A year ago, I wrote to a friend: “The establishment doesn’t want Brexit. In the UK, this is the vast majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. One can’t imagine that our civil service is pro-Brexit either although it is considerably more discrete than the EU Commission which is voluble in its anti-Brexit rhetoric. The Council of Ministers is equally opposed to Brexit, as well as the individual member nations.
With so much of the establishment ranged against leaving the EU, it is quite obvious that, whilst we are definitely going to leave, we are also definitely going to remain. We will leave the Single Market to join a Single Market; one that is different in name only. Similarly, we will leave the Customs Union but enter an identical Customs Arrangement and, whilst we will no longer be bound by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), we will ‘respect its remit'”.
Put simply, Brexit is off. The charade is to maintain a semblance of democracy and this is proving difficult for our politicians. Representative democracy: Parliament opposes people’s or direct democracy, and the people are aware of it.
The task our politicians have set themselves is to remain in the EU and make this appear an act of democracy. An additional difficulty is that internally our political parties are at war with themselves.
Labour MP’s can’t stand their do-nothing leader and the Conservatives are still stuck in the Thatcher wars — small-c conservatism vs a more right-wing ideology. No love is lost between the warring parties. The chances are, if you are a Conservative MP, you prefer many Labour MP’s to those from the opposite wing of your own party. Remember John Major’s “the bastards”? Brexit is providing wonderful opportunities for ambitious politicians to jockey for position.
We are not going to “crash” out on WTO terms. And there isn’t time for anything else so this means that the leaving date will be postponed from the 29th March, I imagine to near the end of the year. I doubt if there will be a second referendum because there is a high risk of the result being in favour of leaving. We will continue to hear that the people have spoken and we have to respect their “instruction”. We are heading for the softest of all possible Brexits — BRINO (Brexit in Name Only).
My expat friends complain bitterly about how awful it all is, how stupid the British people are, how they were lied to and how Brexit is all going to be a personal disaster for them. They should be re-assured: the tragedy is that Brexit is off. But it was never really on.
Nick O’Hear is chairman of Tension Technology International, Ltd., based in Schoonhoven, The Netherlands.