Perhaps its all the standard Parlour Game, but Brexiters are worked up now about the potential terms of the UK’s transition deal, which would allow a smoother exit from the EU. What’s the Parlour Game? Why are Brexiters getting their just deserts? Whose fault is it all? And where does it all end? Time for a Brexit update.
The Parlour Game is the greatest political soap opera of our time. Faced with a mission – democratically justified or not – of leaving the EU, the UK Cabinet met soon after David Cameron’s departure to hatch a plan. Most certainly, because even the Leave campaigners now in charge of the process didn’t really plan to win, the Cabinet realised early on that it is holding very weak cards, and hatched its best-worst plan. A plan which is sadly as flimsy and defensible as Mr Johnson’s desire to have his cake and eat it.
“Like Jihaddis strapping on explosive vests and salivating over the virgins awaiting them in heaven, those ranting and frothing at the mouth believe their own fantasies about how evil the EU is, and how easily salvation will be found.”
The plan is to make it seem as though the UK is ready to leave the EU without a deal, if it can’t get a fair settlement. Fair, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and the PM has repeatedly made clear that her idea of fair is rather similar to Mr Johnson’s, she sees no problem with the UK keeping all the benefits of EU membership, with none of the responsibilities.
So, the Conservative party limps around Westminster and Europe, blithely claiming that it couldn’t care a hoot if no deal is reached, that it is leaving and stands its ground, and that is that. The obvious flaw in this negotiating stance is that it would mean the UK sacrificing terms of trade with its biggest partner, the recipient of 45% of its exports. The upheaval would be unparrelled in British history. If not for a few truly unbalanced Tory MPs, the idea would already have been laughed off stage.
But unbalanced MPs are easily come by, and so the Parlour Game goes on. Every iteration of the Brexit negotiation is punctuated by such “populists” coming out and trouncing economic forecasts that clearly demonstrate Brexit has and will hurt the UK economy, claiming that the UK only need believe in itself and uncouple from the EU to fly immediately to an entirely new level of prosperity. Like Jihaddis strapping on explosive vests and salivating over the virgins awaiting them in heaven, those ranting and frothing at the mouth believe their own fantasies about how evil the EU is, and how easily salvation will be found. So, their ravings have an element of sincerity, which is alarming. But they also fit into the bigger picture of self-harm in the democratic interest, which is the Cabinet’s Brexit posture.
On the subject of Transition, I hope that the Brexiters are sincere in their frustration. Not that I wish suffering upon anyone, but it was the Brexiters who pushed for Theresa May to activate Article 50 without a plan for how to leave the EU. True, it was her failing that she bowed to them, and the ultimate responsibility falls on her. But, I can only hope that the absurdity triggering the formal exit procedure so prematurely is now plain to both the Leave and Remain camps. I don’t believe a Prime Minister has made such a heinous mistake before during my lifetime. But, there is a lesson for Brexiters – always be careful what you wish for.
And who is to blame that there is no plan? Most still seem to point that fat, judgemental finger at the former prime minister, and he certainly has a weight to carry since calling the referendum, but lets think it through a bit. David Cameron campaigned to Remain in the EU. Suppose his cabinet had drawn up a Leave plan, can you imagine the offical Leave campaign backing his idea of Leave? Anyone understanding that the benefits of Remaining outweigh those of Leaving would of course opt for the least painful Brexit, a model that the Brexiters find entirely unacceptable.
At least we can blame the former PM for abandoning his post then eh? Well, not really. The same logic would apply to any Leave plan he set out to implement after losing the referendum, even more than it now plagues Theresa May’s Cabinet. Quitting was the only option that David Cameron had. Then at least we can blame him for stating that he wouldn’t quit before the vote? Again, sorry no. Had he promised ahead of the vote to resign upon losing, then the referendum would by default have been about his leadership, rather than about Leaving the EU.
There is, however, something we can blame David Cameron for. Thank heavens, I hear you mutter. It is the terms of the referendum itself. The reason that people like me find that the vote was an affront to democratic standards is because there was no clear definition of what Leave would mean. Hence, the official Leave campaign was free to lie and confuse voters at will. Very few understood they were voting to Leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, largely because prominent Leave campaigners were promising that this wasn’t the case, although only where and when it suited them of course. Blame Cameron for his over confidence, which led to a rushed referendum, poorly designed and with this terrible outcome. It is a burden he will have to live with.
So where does it all end? That’s the million dollar question, and it comes back to the Parlour Game. Are the hardline Brexiters sincere in their desire to crash the UK out? If yes, then does the PM have the power to contain them? Reports of Theresa May repeatedly asking EU leaders to “offer her a deal” on Brexit terms point to the idea that she has no clear idea what to do, and to the idea that she may simply be playing for time hoping for a Hail Mary pass, such as a shift in public opinion. But, they also point to the idea that all she really wants is an outcome that she can blame someone else for. No surprise the EU isn’t rushing to own the UK’s terms of exit, its not the EU leaving the UK after all.
If we assume a dose of reason and logic – a giant leap of faith in these troubled times – then parliament en masse won’t allow a few unbalanced MPs to drive the UK into a hard Brexit scenario. As the UK folded on the divorce bill, so too it will likely fold on crucial issues such as transition and complying with EU regulations. But, its red lines are still self-contradictory, so something has to give.
As long as the mess rolls on, the better the chances that the UK population will wake up from this spell of communal delusion and embrace a vote on the terms of departure. Right now, no one is getting what they want, and the government is doing the worst job of Brexit imaginable. In the end, one has to hope that a dose of common sense will kick in nationally.