I’m watching the Commons debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill. It’s even rowdier than usual. Everybody is agreed that the government is in a mess with its Brexit negotiations. At one stage a couple of days ago Boris Johnson was clandestinely filmed saying that he wished Trump were doing the negotiation rather than May: ‘The Art of the Deal’, and all that. May was not amused when Corbyn quoted this back to her at Prime Minister’s Question time. But in truth, the main difficulty is the sheer impossibility of the task: extricating us from forty years of membership, while at the same time trying to reconcile a number of frank inconsistencies – the main one being the Northern Irish border. May is struggling. The Scots Nats have already stormed out of the House in a huff. I keep hoping that at one stage Theresa will give up too – ‘Fuck this!’ – throw her papers in the air, and stalk out of the Chamber and out of our lives. It would make splendid theatre, and might be the only way of getting us out of this mess. It would be in the interests of her nation. But I don’t see her as a willing martyr.
One interesting thing about the debate is that none of the Brexiteers is offering any constructive or reasoned arguments for leaving the EU. They used to point to the advantages they believed would accrue to Britain after ‘independence’ – ‘sunny uplands’ – but they hardly dare to mention these any more. That’s because they have been pretty well proved to be fanciful. Even some Brexiteers accept this: that it’s better to be poor than what Jacob Rees-Mogg calls ‘a vassal state’. Nor can they give any examples of the way EU regulations have harmed us; now that Boris’s old lie about ‘straight bananas’ has been nailed. Almost the only argument that is made, and repeated endlessly, is the evidence of the referendum: for whatever reasons – and Brexiteers insist it really was about the EU – ‘the people’ voted ‘out’ (two years ago); a decision which is writ in stone, and so must be ‘respected’. Not respecting it would indicate an elitist and patronising view of ‘the people’. Seeking to reverse that original decision – even with the facts and difficulties now known, the cheating exposed, and after a second referendum that some of the ‘Remainers’ are asking for – would be ‘undemocratic’, even treasonous.
I’ve addressed this question already. The only point I want to make here is that it has become virtually the only argument the Brexiteers now seem to be clinging to; backed up with chilling warnings – by one Tory MP just a few minutes ago, for example – that reneging would provoke a bloody uprising of ‘the people’.