You would imagine that by some fifteen months after the Brexit vote, that some sort of clarity would have emerged by now about what was going to happen after the UK had left the European Union. But no, this is Britain. This is the country of muddling through. Only this time the muddle isn’t getting through anything at all, it’s just a directionless disaster. If you thought Brexit was a confused mess last week, this week it’s got even worse. It doesn’t look like it’s about to get any less confused any time soon. The entire project is as tragic as that driver who crashed and wrote off his £200,000 Ferrari just an hour after buying it, only without the sense of Schadenfreude. In fact that’s a pretty good description of Brexit. The Leave campaign told the public that it was going to get a bespoke and hand-made luxury Brexit, and then as soon as they’d bought it they ended up with a car wreck.
Earlier this week we discovered that there’s no such thing as a Brexit which is good for the whole country, which is what the Tories keep promising. It turns out that there is in fact no such thing as a Brexit which is good for any part of the country. A study this week from the London School of Economics showed that there is no Brexit which is good for any part of the country. The study showed that Brexit would seriously damage the economies of all the cities of the UK, and Scottish cities would be particularly hard hit. Scotland voted against Brexit, and Scotland’s going to be hardest hit by it. Those 13 Tory MPs who were elected by Scottish voters because they didn’t want another referendum are going to be as much use protecting Scotland against the worst of Brexit as an Orange Walk protects the Vatican. Thanks for that, Tories.
Now Liam Fox would most certainly disagree that Brexit isn’t going to be good for the country. Although we should do what Liam insists and refer to him by his proper title, which is Dr Liam Fox the Disgraced Former Minister for Adam Werritty. Liam Fox would insist that Brexit is a good thing, and we must certainly concede that Brexit is good for Liam’s career, at least until the chlorinated chickens come home to roost. Anyway, Liam’s career isn’t a significant part of the country. It’s not even really a part of planet Earth. Mostly it exists in Liam’s mind, as he strides the world making imaginary trade deals with dictators and Donald Trump and chlorinated chickens.
Brexit represents the greatest realignment in British economic and foreign policy since WW2, and none of the UK parties has the foggiest idea of what they want to achieve from it or how they’re going to implement it. Around every corner lurks some new intractable issue which threatens doom for the entire project. The Tory response to this is to insist that because they’ve got a British made duvet over their heads none of the bad things are really going to happen even if duvet is a French word that will be repatriated once new immigration rules come into effect. Labour for its part manages to be even more confused and contradictory than the Tories. This is a political achievement of quite some magnitude. The only contest that either Labour or the Tories are winning is the contest to see which has bigger clown shoes. If anyone does have a clear idea of what the Labour party stands for with Brexit, could someone please let the Labour party know.
Meanwhile the Lib Dems do at least have a coherent position on Brexit, insofar as they want another referendum because people aren’t getting what they were told they were going to get. Sadly the Lib Dems are not coherent as far as a Scottish referendum is concerned. The Lib Dems are opposed to another referendum because if people aren’t getting what they were told they were going to get, that’s just jolly bad luck and Scotland should just put up and shut up. Second referendums are only permissible for things that the Lib Dems actually want. So there is a coherence here, it’s just a selfish and self-serving one.
After a confused and confusing week during which the UK government managed to tie itself in knots over a post-Brexit immigration policy, and the EU chief negotiator said that it seemed unlikely that talks could progress to a post-Brexit deal as the British were still not engaging with the basics of the divorce, things got even worse by Friday. The new Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that border checks between the Republic and Northern Ireland will not be acceptable after Brexit. The Irish government does not think it’s its job to design a new Irish border for the benefit of British Brexiteers. According to the Irish, if the UK wants to restrict freedom of movement, then the UK will have to introduce immigration checks between the island of Ireland and a whole and the rest of the UK. The UK caused this problem, the UK can deal with it.
The idea that there should be immigration and border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK goes down as well with the Conservatives’ new best friends in the DUP as the suggestion that talks between them and the other Northern Irish parties to form a new government in Stormont should be mediated by the manager of Celtic. Sadly for the Conservatives and the DUP, the Irish government has a veto on any Brexit deal. They will most assuredly veto any deal which sees the reintroduction of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The Tories are now caught between Dublin Rock and the Hard Face of the DUP. It now looks as though the only way in which an open border between the two parts of the island of Ireland can be maintained is for the whole of the UK to retain freedom of movement. See what happens when you partition the countries you’ve exerted your rule over, British imperialists? It comes back and bites you on the Brexit bum. Now it’s Ireland that’s able to lay down the law to Britain, because Britain is isolated and alone, and Ireland has mates.
We’re only a couple of months into the Brexit process, and the entire thing remains a confused and angry mess. All of this was brought about by the arrogance of British exceptionalism, by Little England nationalism masquerading as a great power, by racism and xenophobia stoked up by right wing politicians, and by the party political manoeuverings of the Tory party. This is not the Britain that was sold to Scotland in 2014. We were promised the broad shoulders of the UK, we were promised the safety and security of one of the world’s biggest economies. What we got was a huddle in a befuddled muddle. The winning sides in both the Scottish referendum of 2014 and the EU referendum of 2016 will go down in history as the biggest political liars in British history, and their lies will bring about the downfall of the UK.
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