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There’s certainly a buzz of optimism in the air at the moment. You can almost see it. Committed Brexiteers up and down the land are on the verge of dancing with delight as we approach the date for the meaningful parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s (or should that be Olly Robbins’?) Withdrawal Agreement. The common belief is that the government will go down the heavy defeat next Tuesday (15th January), after which the UK will pivot towards a WTO (or ‘hard Brexit’ as the Remoaners call it) arrangement with the European Union. Thus, after 46 years of incremental entrapment, a WTO UK will be completely free of Brussels by the beginning of April.
Nobody more than me hopes such prognostications come to pass. I am an ardent Leaver; I campaigned for Leave before the referendum took place; I’ve supported a clean Brexit consistently ever since. Even so, I can’t help thinking we’re heading towards a monumental betrayal should the Withdrawal Agreement suffer rejection in the Commons. Before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m no longer entirely confident it will be. Nobody analysing the fevered and duplicitous world of British politics can possibly say with certainty that May won’t pull something out of the proverbial hat in the final minutes, which will encourage the necessary number of cross-party MPs to support the text.
Houston, we have a problem. We are now governed by the most venal, contemptible, smug, self-righteous group of politicians and attendant Establishment figures this country has known in the modern era. A political/parliamentary elite no longer either identified along class lines, or else committed to honouring what the country collectively desires – even after they promised otherwise. From the date the referendum result was announced, we’ve seen Herculean efforts to undermine its legitimacy – from claims the ‘proletarian’ electorate didn’t really know what they were voting for, to protestations about the result’s viability because just three areas of the United Kingdom (comprising a mere 23% of the total population) voted for the UK as a whole to Remain in the EU.
If it hasn’t been a polished propaganda campaign largely driven by a generation of younger people who’ve had most vestiges of British pride and patriotism knocked out of them at the cultural Marxism factories we call our schools and universities, it’s instead been a gaggle of elected Members determined to pull every trick in the book to water down or destroy altogether the Brexit 52% expressed a desire to enact in June 2016. The latest came just last night, when the Commons effectively voted to hamper the government’s ability to adequately prepare the necessary finances to underpin the country’s economy in the scenario that we quit the EU without a deal. Although a symbolically procedural amendment to the Finance Bill, it does nevertheless indicate where feeling is towards a true Brexit in the Commons – and that certainly isn’t in implementing a clean break from the bloc.
So where does that all leave us then? My hunch now is that when the deal is voted down next week (the chances of that happening are still favourable), there are enough MPs in the Commons to prevent the government moving towards a clean Brexit. That much is now obvious. Also, given we’re stewarded by a Prime Minister who is herself a Remainer, I can’t see May choosing a clean Brexit over a delay to Article 50 and a second referendum with the option to Remain. After all, the EU have already said they are favourable to that outcome, so I doubt they’ll put too many obstacles in her way. As for the 17.4 million of us who voted to Leave, we have seen that we live in a country where the importance of your political leanings are not based on conviction, but where in the country you reside and how much your beliefs dovetail with those of our elected representatives. Until faced with the electoral reckoning that almost certainly awaits both main parties, I doubt they’ll even give us a second thought. I only hope my predictions are utterly, utterly wrong.
The moral of the story? If you want a WTO Brexit, fine. So do I. Nobody more so. But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.