Sometimes I wonder whether the Brexiteers are really serious about our leaving the EU. The whole thing looks such a mess – the issues so much more complex than the Brexiteers led us to believe, and than most of us – even Remainers – expected; the negotiations so tortuous; the negotiators on the British side so uncertain, divided against themselves, and in many cases frankly ridiculous (I’m thinking ‘Boris’ here, but May and Davis are hardly less so); the original narrow Brexit vote largely discredited, clearly based as it was on lies and social media manipulation; the weight of expert opinion now firmly against Brexit on economic grounds, with some civil servants predicting ‘Armageddon’, forcing even the ultra-ridiculous Nigel Farage to peddle back on his claim that it would be good for us; the Lords – surprisingly the cooler-headed of the two Houses, mainly because they’re not so beholden to the Right-wing press (see https://bernardjporter.com/2018/05/10/their-lordships/) – seeking to at least hold the process up; and that same press and its billionaire owners now resorting to insults and calumnies – ‘traitors’, ‘plotters’, ‘enemies of the people’, ‘accept it or go and live somewhere else’ – whose air of desperation must surely indicate that they fear the tide is beginning to turn.
The likelihood is that if this doesn’t force a re-think, in the form of a second referendum or a meaningful vote in Parliament, Britain will exit the European Union in a couple of years against the wishes of her people at that time. Enough oldies – the bulk of the Brexit vote – will have died, to be replaced by pro-European 18-23-year olds (see https://bernardjporter.com/2017/03/29/brexit-unfair-to-the-young/). But they won’t be heard. (Hopefully pro-European oldies, like me, will be spared.)
What effect that will have is hard to predict, but must surely be sowing the seeds of concern in the pro-Brexit camp. Many of those, including Johnson and Gove, never originally expected to win the referendum, but took the side they did mainly to establish their populist credentials. Others, like May, didn’t want to win, and indeed voted the other way. They’re all finding now that it’s easier to oppose than to govern; to pull down than to rebuild. And they must be at least a little worried by the effect this whole event is having on the political and public discourse in Britain and wider afield, with the rise of fascist-leaning nationalisms all over.
Could this be an explanation for the incompetent and chaotic way the government is pursuing its diplomacy in Europe just now? It doesn’t want to ‘win’. Ministers have suddenly become frightened by the prospect of uncoupling from Europe, as its repercussions become clearer. They don’t know what to do. They have no plans, even for their much vaunted ‘global trade’ agenda, aside from accepting chlorinated chicken from Trump’s USA. They’re in a hole – a deep, dark pit, indeed – and know it. They’re secretly hoping that it will all collapse, without the Daily Mail’s being able to put the blame on them. Perhaps they’re simply waiting for the evil Dacre’s replacement as editor of the Mail in the autumn – by a Remainer, apparently. I suppose that’s the only hope we have, too.