When the UK went to the polls on June 23rd 2016 and voted by a small margin to leave the European Union, I suspect that NOBODY believed this result would have created the utter shambles British politics is in today. Parliament has been paralysed for those three years due to a combination of the narrative being totally dominated by the Brexit issue and an ineffective (incompetent) Opposition. Consequently, no meaningful decision making or action has taken place, and the act of “running the country” has effectively frozen. About the only thing Parliament has agreed on was that a NO-DEAL exit wasn’t an acceptable option, yet I don’t see anything being done to stop this scenario taking place.
Our membership of the EU is hanging by a thread, having passed the 31st March 2019 predicted exit date. David Cameron having mandated the referendum, for no better reason than to appease the more radical faction of his own political party, seemed shocked at the result and abruptly departed office, leaving someone else to clear up his mess and landing them with a thankless task. Theresa May stepped into the job she had coveted after a “political coronation”, and appeared to be always mindful of the radicals when trying to negotiate the terms of our EU departure. By doing so she failed on just about every level to please anybody, meaning an extension until October 31st was given, in an attempt to sort something out. Having failed to keep the Tories happy, May has stepped away from the cauldron and a Conservative leadership campaign between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt has begun. Campaign “hustings” have got underway, and I have no doubt that Brexit will dominate just about all of the discussions. The media seems to be salivating over these proceedings and report them in a way that suggests the general public has some meaningful say in the matter. Yet it’s the Tory membership (160,000 strong and around 0.25% of the population) who will decide the next British Prime Minister! When you look at these figures it doesn’t seem very democratic to me, it just magnifies the frailties of our “first past the post” political system, but that’s a totally different argument.
Personally I wouldn’t blame the EU if come October 31st they say Go and throw us out with or without a deal. Whoever is Prime Minister then, could say “they delivered Brexit as promised” without actually doing anything. If the British Parliament wants a deal, they have to vote for something that’s on the table. Further negotiations are not on offer the EU says, regardless of what British politicians say to the contrary. The vague hope of a further extension period may be offered as an olive branch by the EU, if a second referendum or a general election were on offer. In theory this could result in the stalemate between opposing sides being broken, but I’m not so sure myself. I have this ghastly feeling Johnson could be dumb/bullish enough to call an election, and win the damned thing outright, following the worldwide trend of “unexpected” election results. Despite his Leave campaign battle bus slogan “£350 million a week to the EU could go to the NHS” being an outright lie, he seems to be the leading candidate for the top job. Figure that one out!
My guess is that both leadership contenders will say just about anything to garner member votes. Like all politicians they are adept at not really directly answering a question, and using subtle changes in dialogue to suit the audience in front of them. I’ve read and heard so much nonsense since the EU referendum that I can’t take anything now at face value, and have become highly sceptical. For example I’ve seen “the £39 billion divorce settlement will be saved because it’s not legally binding”, or “the tariffs saved on goods from outside the EU will be enormous”. Neither of these statements hint at the alternative interpretation/truth: that the divorce settlement is payment for our legal obligations to date, or that the tariffs imposed from within the EU could be far higher resulting in costs going up.
Just two months after the EU referendum, standing at a bus stop in Stoke (area voted Leave), I was informed by a woman that the black foreign speaking customers who filled McDonalds, had two years to go back to where they came from and give us our jobs back! They were not like us she said. When I pointed out that’s not what the EU referendum was about, I was told that’s EXACTLY what it was for. As she ranted on, my ears bled and my heart grieved because she honestly believed what she was saying. Once again I had the feeling of mortification at being British, as described in a blog I posted months before the EU referendum. This is the link below:
I’ve always said that the Scottish Independence Referendum created a schism within my home nation and re-enforced the one between north and south. The EU referendum did exactly the same thing, polarising opinions and hammering home regional differences. And unfortunately it brought out the worst in some people too. The result somewhere down the line could be a distinctly un-united kingdom for a Britain that is most definitely not great anymore. And the responsibility for this outcome would lie at David Cameron’s door.
Had the narrative of British politics since 2016 been written as a novel a decade ago, it would have probably been considered an outrageous/great piece of fiction. Alas, today it is a sad horrible reality.