Things are not good. Just four days after Britain took its biggest post-war decision, a vote to leave the European Union, the country is indeed at breaking point – perhaps Nigel Farage was right. The consequences of Brexit were always going to be massive. The Remainers feared them and us Leavers were wary of them, but are least our new de facto leaders had a plan.
Or so we thought.
As of 28 June 2016, there is no plan to take the United Kingdom out of the EU. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would begin a two-year process to extricate the country, is yet to be invoked, despite David Cameron saying it would be immediately if a Leave vote was returned. After all, why should he “do the hard shit”? No reason, except for that bit where you said you would, Dave.
We are witness to an ill-prepared Vote Leave, who are suffering a pyrrhic victory, and a government digging its heels in to delay or deny the will of the British people. Westminster’s bigwigs evidently do not approve of the peasants’ revolt which has taken place. Tottenham MP and anti-democrat, Labour’s David Lammy, has already made the risible pledge to “stop this madness” and ignore the referendum result. Some much-needed comedic relief, at least.
Meanwhile, the rightfully forgotten Liberal Democrats (ha!) have confirmed that they will stand on a platform to flip the 52 percent off and keep Britain in the EU should they be in government – they won’t, but this is 2016 and nothing can be ruled out completely. Okay, perhaps this can. However, these two moves did neatly clarify that our issue with authoritarians does not begin and end in Brussels.
“But we have a parliamentary democracy! The referendum was only advisory!” cry the diminishing yet pesky Remainers in denial. That’s very true, parliament is under no legal obligation to follow through with the plebiscite. But it is also true that parliament should be representative of the electorate. It is now apparent that with 479 out of 650 MPs publicly voicing their support for remaining within the EU, that parliament is out of touch with the public on the biggest constitutional issue the country faces. For that reason alone, an imminent general election is required, with current and prospective MPs displaying their EU stance. But not before Article 50 – the slippery establishment cannot be allowed off the hook it’s taken decades to get them on.
Until the already notorious Article 50 is triggered, nothing happens. The UK remains a fully paid up member of a union which wants us out pronto. Once started, the process is irreversible, hence the delay. The official word is to strengthen Britain’s negotiations with the EU, but the murmurs from grandees of a second referendum, and the declared intention of some to ignore the nation’s choice means the electorate must be extra vigilant.
We are now seeing exactly why allowing the Conservatives to control both sides of the debate was a serious mistake. However much these careerists-turned-statesmen told you they cared, ultimately, party was always going to become before country. As far as they are concerned, finding a new leader and grabbing a stronger hold of the House of Commons is their priority – an easy task thanks to Labour’s implosion.
In fact, it’s not far-fetched to suggest Vote Leave’s virtual leader and part-time Eurosceptic Boris Johnson would have preferred a narrow loss, so not to damage himself and skirt this Brexit nuisance altogether.
To lead Britain out of the EU will be political suicide for whoever has to do it. The implications are undeniable. A period of economic trouble and the likely departure of Scotland from the union are two events no prime minister could survive. However, paying no heed to the 17.4 million who opted for Leave, or performing a stitch up which effectively sees us stay in is also unworkable.
Scotland’s second plea for independence was always going to happen, but leaving the economy teetering without stability was an avoidable scenario, had Johnson, Michael Gove and the other official Brexiteers decided on a destination for their ship.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. So many promises were made from so many people – in truth, they probably had to be to form a winning coalition – that it’s impossible to deliver on all of them. The cake Johnson is after is not, and will likely never be on the menu. Staying in the single market, not contributing to the EU budget and ending free movement is a fantasy. If the EU did grant it, petrol would be added to the Eurosceptic fires roaring in France, the Netherlands and others. Thus, the end of “ever-closer union”. That won’t be in the #junckerplan.
It seems as if the likely Tory government would settle on Britain joining the European Economic Area (EEA) – the Norway model – if they cannot get the caveats they desire. Vote Leave representatives have already been keen to stick with the single market, while some are keen on the free movement of people continuing. The EEA may now the best hope now for economic stability, but there’s no denying that this isn’t the Brexit many Leave voters would have had in mind. The UK would remain in the single market and crucially, have to accept the free movement of people.
Such a move would be considered by many as another establishment betrayal and not what they voted for. Out was supposed to be out. If such a play was made, unprecedented discontent and a surge in support for UKIP would be inevitable. If disregarding the vote entirely is the worst course of action, politically, this would be a firm second. Our steeliest Eurosceptic Farage will push, and he’s been pretty successful doing that so far. In such an uncertain political climate, who knows what gains his party could make in the short and long-term future?
However, there’s no guarantee that Britain will even get EEA. Hath no fury like an EU scorned – we are not the most popular folk on the continent right now. That they refuse to even engage in informal discussions before Article 50 is invoked is proof enough of that.
Talk of an associate membership akin to Georgia’s has been mooted, while it’s not inconceivable that there will be no deal at all, if they really set out to punish us. To view it from their perspective, stopping other brewing dissent from manifesting into further referenda is a priority. They may think that giving the UK a raw deal is the best way to do that.
Brexit has plunged the country into the unknown – no surprise in itself. But the thoroughly incompetent Vote Leave clan has made things 10 times worse. They won, but refuse to “take control”. Don’t expect them to do so anytime soon either with the Tory leadership contest about to get into full swing. Four days on, the British public has no idea what sort of Brexit to expect, if it can even expect one at all.
Leaving the European Union should be a time of hope and opportunity – Australia and New Zealand are already in search of a trade deal – but for now, we are plunging into the abyss that Project Fear predicted.
We need Brexit leadership, and fast.