Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Brexit: boxed into a corner
Unfortunately I think the "winners" in yesterday's parliamentary manoeuvres are the arch-Brexiteers (Jacob Rees-Mogg and his European Reform group.) They can claim to have shown themselves to be "flexible" by supporting Mrs May's deal provided she agrees to re-negotiate the Irish backstop, and Mrs May can also claim to be a compromiser extraordinaire by agreeing to do this, despite the fact that up until now she has said that this was impossible.
The most perceptive comment I have seen on the demand to substitute "alternative arrangements" (as yet unspecified and with a technology as yet undiscovered) for the current deal is that it is akin to the captain of the Titanic ordering the iceberg to get out of the way.
Be that as it may, if, and more probably when, this desperate attempt to create a deal acceptable to the Commons hits the buffers, both the ERG and Mrs May can claim: "Well, we tried, we showed flexibility, we did our best. We have hit the rock of EU intransigence. It's al their fault. So well leave without a deal."
Which is what the ERG have wanted all along.
And the anti-EU press, who today manage to distort Mrs May's U-turn as her triumphant victory, will render gushing support.
It has to be admitted that, largely in its earlier days I think, the EU had the habit of taking difficult negotiations to the 11th hour and 59th minute and then, if no agreement were reached, stopping the clock and forcing negotiators to carry on until the early hours of the following day, or even longer. However, there is no sign of the EU agreeing to further amend the current deal which has taken two and a half years to complete and to which Mrs May has already signed up. It could happen, but is unlikely.
More likely will be the production of a form of words, some clarification or interpretation, which the Brexiteers are almost bound to declare to be unsatisfactory, and so we continue towards the cliff edge on the 29th March.
I find the performance of our MPs hugely disappointing. The overwhelming majority know perfectly well that the best thing for the future of the country is to stay in the EU. They voted remain in the Referendum. Everything that has been revealed since the Referendum confirms they were right. They know.
They cower before the mantras of: "We must respect the will of the people;" "We must obey the instructions of the British people." Sadly this rubbish passes unchallenged when it is repeated ad nauseam by government spokespersons and Brexiteers on the BBC and elsewhere. Why don't the interviewers, every time, say it is the way 37% voted then, but 34% voted to Remain, 12% who could have voted didn't bother and about 3m people most concerned weren't allowed to vote? And the Referendum campaign was distorted by lies, unachievable promises. illegal activities and possibly foreign interference.
If they haven't time to say all that, why not just say the referendum was ineptly conceived and fraudulently conducted?
But no: "The people''s will" (aptly illustrated as the "people's willy" by a Guardian cartoonist) is hammered away and the referendum result is raised to the status of a sacred shibboleth which must be obeyed however deleterious the cost.
As argued repeatedly on this blog, the best outcome is for MPs to grasp the nettle, admit that the whole saga has been a terrible mistake, apologise to the EU for wasting so much of their time and energy, withdraw Article 50 and promise to be constructive and co-operative members in the future.
Failing that (and yet further delaying dealing with the real problems facing both this country, the EU and the World) they should at the very least decide to put whatever deal, if any, is achieved, against Remain, to the people in another Referendum.