|You have probably noticed that our country has gone mad. You are probably used to switching on the news and thinking that the Government of our country has been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by robots who have been programmed by a drunk.|
|It is, by the way, now 38 days till we leave the EU. It’s two years, seven months, three weeks and five days since “we” voted to leave the EU. And we still have literally no idea what form that “leaving” is going to take.
Like millions of other people, I’ve been in a state of shock since that June day when everything changed. Normally, you would expect the shock to fade. Normally, you would expect grief to give way to something more like resignation. But for many of us the shock we felt on hearing the news is just a shadow of the shock we feel now.
We now know that the Leave campaign was funded illegally and that one of its chief bankrollers is under criminal investigation. We now know that the campaign was based on a tissue of lies. And we now know that the people who led it didn’t have the tiniest clue about what they would do if they won it.
About what, for example, they would do about the Irish border. About what kind of trading relationship we might want to have with the EU. About how we might begin to replace our biggest export market when there’s nothing in the world to match it. The public school boys who urged the nation to “take back control” don’t seem to have been interested in the boring details of how it would actually work. Tear it all up! Let’s have a revolution! We can sort all that stuff out later.
No wonder Donald Tusk said “there’s a special place in hell” for the people who backed Brexit without a plan. And now, that hell is here. Not for those guys, obviously, sitting around in their multi-million pound homes, knocking off newspaper columns for around the average annual income for a few hours work a month, or watching the zeros accumulate on the hedge funds they’ve wisely moved out of the UK. No, they’ll be fine.
I’m talking about the rest of us. Those of us who read reports from credit rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s, or the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or the Bank of England or even the Treasury. Some of the reports say that a million people will lose their jobs if there’s a “no deal” Brexit.
Which, by the way, was not on the ballot paper, but now seems to be the option of choice for people who “just want to get on with it”, so they can switch on the telly and talk about something else.
All the reports assume that hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs. Industries will be wiped out. Medicines will run out and people will die. We know that this is likely because the Government has been stockpiling body bags. Yup. We can probably forget about manufacturing or construction or services. But we should be alright for body bags. Buy one, get one free.
The multi-millionaire supporters of Brexit say they don’t believe the reports. They don’t even seem to read them. Facts they don’t like are now “fake news” or “Project Fear”. Senior members of the cabinet are given documents describing the likely outcomes of different forms of Brexit – including the Treasury’s own documents – and they dismiss them. The ERG dismiss them. The people we elected to represent us are shown evidence commissioned by their own Government of the harm that their plans will cause and they dismiss them.
We are on the other side of the looking glass now, folks. The British Government knows that what it’s planning to do will cause the British people great harm, but it’s planning to do it anyway.
Since Theresa May fell into the job of being Prime Minister in June 2016, she has ignored the views of everyone in this country who voted to stay in the EU and has treated those who voted to leave like children. She has refused to admit that the promises that were made to them can’t be kept. She has wilfully, knowingly, added to the lies. She has talked about Brexit “dividends” when she knows that Brexit has already cost around sixty billion and will, over the next few years, cost hundreds of billions more.
And then, two weeks ago, she actually went mad. She tore up the agreement she had spent two and a half years working on and encouraged her party to vote for something called “alternative arrangements”. Nobody explained what these “alternative arrangements” were. She hasn’t even told Michel Barnier what they are. For the past fortnight, she has been pretending to negotiate with Brussels. The British Government has gone to Brussels for “talks”, but it hasn’t even said what it wants. Does international diplomacy get more embarrassing? If so, it’s hard to see how.
So, here we are. Oh, and we have a leader of the opposition who claimed that he would only sign up for a Brexit that offered the “exact same benefits” as being in the EU, but is now determined to get any Brexit through. Anything, in fact, that means he doesn’t have to have the referendum his party manifesto promised to “keep on the table”. The leader of the opposition appears to have smashed the table. He just wants a “Tory Brexit” so he can have his Marxist revolution. No wonder seven of his MPs have just decided to walk.
We have a Prime Minister who is still saying we’re going to leave the EU on 29thMarch, even though everyone knows there isn’t enough time to pass the laws. We now know that she will always put her party before her country. She is clearly hoping that she can force through her deal at the last minute by “running down the clock”. (Yet another phrase that’s now seared on our minds and our memories.) But she might not.
I honestly think anything could happen. I still think we could crash out. I think May could force through a version of her deal, effectively by offering bribes to Labour MPs. And I think she could be forced to ask the EU to extend Article 50.
But I don’t see why the EU would rush to give British politicians yet more time to move different coloured unicorns around a giant chessboard in the House of Commons.
They don’t have to let us extend Article 50. They’re sick of us. The whole world is sick of us. They will only agree to extend it for another referendum, an election, or if there’s a clear way forward, with a clear majority for a realistic deal.
If we have another general election, we’ll end up pretty much where we are now. If I were the EU, I’d say you have two choices: Norway, or another referendum. May won’t want either of these, so what would she do then? Would she opt for no deal? Would she really want to put her country through the biggest self-inflicted disaster in its history?
That, of course, is the trillion-dollar question. Watch this space. Fasten your seat belts. And pray that one of those body bags isn’t for you.