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By Andrew Gardner
21st September 2019
Three years in and this could go either way. The possibilities have narrowed somewhat but this has now come to a standoff – a game of ‘who blinks first’, not between the UK and the EU but now between the two factions within our borders.
The ‘Leave’ voting public are tired of the delays and stalling tactics, wanting this endless petty minded arguing over minutiae to end.
The debate is going nowhere and we are recycling through the same old talking points. Boris lost his first bill since becoming PM (not since Lord Roseberry in 1894 has that happened). The house has voted against a no-deal with Corbyn, who at one time railed against the EU and now doesn’t, and refused to support a general election to bring the matter to a head. Dominic Grieve and John Bercow have been in communication with EU negotiators (according to Owen Paterson briefing Macron on British constitutional law and how to overturn Brexit).
Parliament has been prorogued (suspended) and there is footage about of MPs parading round with ‘silenced’ written on pieces of card, one SNP member even laying across the speaker to prevent him from leaving the chamber, like something from a film about Cromwell!
Ex PM Tony Blair has been briefing too as reported by the Telegraph
Defections to the Lib Dems continue who are now, under Jo Swinson who famously asked for a simple in/ out vote, promising to revoke Article 50. At their conference the EU Brexit negotiator Verhofstadt made his speech about an EU empire!
And in all this, UKIP NEC have decided to have a leader who cannot lead, cannot have his chosen deputy and his chosen chairman has been banned from the party.
At a time when the traditional UK pressure party, that gave us the referendum in the first place, should be pressuring the government instead appears to be riven with infighting while the show goes on.
No deal undoubtably creates problems, but remaining does more so. There is no legitimate way to remain without another referendum – and though Labour would have it that they would renegotiate the deal and then have a referendum with the option to remain, effectively campaigning against their own electoral manifesto, it’s doubtful this option would get past the electoral commission on grounds of fairness.
If such a referendum goes ahead it would be widely viewed as a rigged referendum. If the remain establishment then accepts that verdict as legitimate, after 3 years of ‘we were lied to/ peoples vote/ insuffient margin’ etc, then they will irreparably compound the perception that we have a ruling class where leave voters just don’t count.
(It’s worth remembering that the Europhile Ken Clarke has been quoted “I look forward to the time when Westminster is reduced to the performing the function of a parish council and all legislation is done from Brussels” or words to that effect.)
We’d be back where we started in 2016, but with a larger and stronger eurosceptic anti-establishment contingent in politics and a thwarted Brexit would remain a permanent feature of it.
Leavers could now justifiably say that if remainers won’t accept a referendum result then why should we?
We’ll go to a 2020 referendum, only next time around there will be no ‘meaningful votes’ or Article 50 talks. Patience will have run its course. We’ll be in the territory of ripping up treaties perhaps more. And with the UK still a member of the EU, the EU agenda is then stalled as nothing can go ahead without UK approval – who would dare approve further integration? (Perhaps Jo Swinson, given recent form) At that point we would see the current level of marches and demonstrations escalate, violence would be directed at MPs.
The problem here is that the EU simply does not enjoy sufficient legitimacy in British politics for the UK to be a member. Even if we do a straight re-run of the 2016 referendum and remain wins by a mere two per cent, we then get calls for best of three. Or five. Any way you cut it, the EU is not popular enough as it is, let alone its stated objectives.
If our MPs are looking to keep this gaping division open and forever be fighting off a public who actively despise them then they are going the right way about it
To a very large extent this is no longer about the EU. This is about whether we have a democracy. If we remain in the EU and ruled by a largely europhile political class where again general elections are meaningless then the world renowned British tolerance will quickly evaporate.
A lot of people are watching this process with one question in mind. Did my vote mean anything? If it doesn’t then Britain has got much bigger problems than Brexit. If people no longer have a vote, what do they have?
Nobody serious can claim we can do without some kind of relationship with the EU, any subsequent debate should be on how we move forward as a country, as one, rather than being bogged down in the minutiae of tribal debates.
Right now the nation is divided down leave/remain lines whereas if that dynamic is broken, having forced the issue on that question, we then get to redraw the lines toward a more collaborative discussion.
But the no deal may be a political failure – not least because remainer MPs took an obstructionist stance from the word go. Now it has evolved into a full blown culture war. Right v Left. Working class v Middle class. Love EU v Hate E. Parliament v The people
This is no longer about the EU. This is about whether we have a democracy. If we remain in the EU and ruled by a largely europhile political class, where again general elections are meaningless, then the world renowned British tolerance will quickly evaporate.
Parliament could have asserted itself far sooner and sought to do the honourable thing but now is probably too little and too late.
It’s going to be a long time before we establish a new normal but if we don’t get change then our politics will fester on, becoming ever more dysfunctional, out of touch and out of control, the checks and balances proved useless.
Fundamentally Britain voted for regime change and if it turns out that votes cannot change the regime then democracy is dead.
As it was during the Long Parliament of 1640-53.
It didn’t end well.