It might be a shock, but I’m not trying to explain anything to anyone but rather I’m making a last ditch attempt at trying to understand something that (to put it mildly) puzzles me a lot. It’s Brexit.
I’m not a Brit, just have a mind that tents to commit suicide by wrapping itself tighter around things that are harder to grasp on an acceptable level. The bigger the challenge, the greater the interest even if the issue at hand isn’t something that I can affect or influence. And yet …
I’ve tried to understand what led to Brexit. And I believe I do. For those with a deep national identity (even without extremist nationalist influences) it’s painful to see foreign entities gain a lot of influence on how you run your country, who gets to come and work there, how, how justice is define, precedence of laws and so on. In my home country of Romania, such things are easier to swallow for moderates mostly because European influence has always meant progress and a sense of normalcy and civilisation but from what I see, when you belong to a country that has been at the forefront of history (for better or worse), these are harder to swallow.
So … you want out, right? Let’s get back control. So, you ask the people. Do you want out?
What I don’t understand #1. The question is ok, fairly clear. But at the time of its asking, the process itself wasn’t clear. What does it mean to get out? How will we relate to the body of which we used to be a part of? There were a lot of unknowns and most people (even those putting the question to UK’s citizens) admitted that. All good so far.
But then, why is the result treated as binding (legally, it’s not, sure but the mantra is: we engaged the people, therefore we will listen to them) by the PM? The translated mantra becomes: we engaged the people with a questions for which the possible outcomes were totally unclear, but even now after 2 years of analysing and planning we haven’t got everything close to nailed down (even in terms of what could be achieved, nevermind how) but still we should do that. Negotiators have changed their minds of the solution but the people don’t get a chance to rethink the original demand.
What I don’t understand #2. There’s an opposition, theoretically. Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a guys who’s as controversial as anybody in politics nowadays.
Trade Secretary Liam Fox noted just yesterday that Labour proposals an incoherent. Maybe I’m not seeing something but that looks to be spot on. So, what is Labour doing? They range from a long standing mulling of a half-baked Brexit (let’s keep close ties with the EU on just about everything that the original idea wanted overthrown — which goes well with nobody), to a new referendum (something Corbyn finally called in December, after 2 years of talks!!! at that time even EU officials said that doesn’t have a leg to stand on), to small touches on the backstop issue.
But why? 98% of Labour was in the remain camp, but somehow it looks like they’re afraid to call the original referendum a half baked load of crap. Well, the people have spoken, lacking any sort of factual information whatsoever but the conservatives are all about listening to the people and so are we!
Even barring that, Labour hasn’t held on to any sort of principle whatsoever. Brexiteers remained largely consistent on “Brexit deal or bust out of here guns blazing”, with small variations like the Malthouse compromise. But Labour hasn’t held on to anything, just juggling all sorts of ideas and careful not to upset the very small majority that decided the referendum.
In fact, the only apparently coherent thing they acted on (no-confidence vote) was mangled by getting it out at the last minute, barely able to whip their own votes, nevermind fetch support from the other camps. I’m all for the pro-european remained, solidarity, progressive stance of Labour policies but as it stands the party doesn’t seem able to come together on a clear strategy.
What I don’t understand #3 — voting on taking “no deal” off the table has meaning only if, faced with no deal at the last minute, Labour blinks and drops Brexit (assuming the EU does the logical thing and refuses an extension — after all there’s little hope that if 2 years research and negotiation yielded nothing, a few more months would). But the PM has lost not just her voice but any connection with the core Labour party (lost her government, effectively, after all).
What’s left is a last-ditch vote on her ‘deal’ (which rightfully nobody likes) and a YOLO move (since barring a miracle, she’s done for). What will she YOLO on, dump Brexit unilaterally (she won’t have backing from anyone except maybe Labour) or “no-deal” (when clock strikes March 29th, just sit back with a bagel and a coffee).
And finally …. some options, superficially analysed as I dug through conservative media.
- General elections: I guess that would be the only reason why EU would accept an extension — if Labour would step up and provide assurances that in such a move they would have the upper hand on a margin good enough to reverse Brexit. Not accepting the deal, backstop and all, but cancel Brexit. Then again, Cameron also assured Brexit wouldn’t happen and the people threw him out the door. Democratically though, it feels as if it’s only way to break the deadlock: the people having the information that was lacking during the previous referendum, should speak again through general elections or another referendum.
- Extension: there’s no reason why this would be a good idea. France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland all have plans in place to deal with a “no deal” exit. Prolonging uncertainty, looking into renegotiating something that was agreed on after 2 years of talks, makes no sense whatsoever. “no deal” sounds better than uncertainty anyway unless “no Brexit” is on the table.
- Deal: just accept it already! But the “brexiteer” camp is right. Legally, the backstop can be used to keep UK in. If I were keen on leaving, I would leave with no deal rather than one which has significant risks of cancelling my goal altogether.