Brexit has been pretty much defined by batshit insanity, but this week has seen a development that is way out there in the far reaches of gibberage even by the standards of a campaign which hails Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson as heroes. Someone whose grasp on reality is even more tenuous than a Daily Mail leader writer has started a petition to the Westminster parliament, calling on the Republic of Ireland to solve all the problems of the backstop by returning to British rule. Yeah. You read that right. This is a real thing. At the time of writing the petition had attracted over 2500 signatures of presumably grown up people who have at least as much wherewithall as it takes to use a keyboard.
The petition calls on Westminster to offer “full UK membership so they can rejoin the Union”. In other words, he thinks that the British government should ask the Irish if they want to be represented in the British cabinet by a Tory mouthpiece who isn’t representative of Irish opinion and who won’t resign even though he or she signally fails to stand up for Irish interests. We know that because it’s what Scotland has got. This is what “full membership of the UK” entails. It entails being sidelined, marginalised, and ignored. It means being sacrificed on the altar of British nationalist exceptionalism.
But hey, who needs an independent government able to make it own alliances and agreements with other countries in order to protect its interests when you can have David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet. It’s a remarkable propostion, but what is most remarkable of all is that the originator of this petition thinks that the Irish might say, “OK, we’ll go for that.”
The assumptions underlying the thought processes of the person who began this petition, a certain Scott Packer, deserve to be examined more closely. If only so that we can point and laugh at them, assuming that is that Scott is genuine and not some genius of political surrealism. Mind you, it’s hard to tell the difference these days, since the entire Brexit process is so unmoored from reality that it counts as an exercise in Dadaist performance art all by itself.
The most obvious is why is he petitioning Westminster at all? It’s not up to them whether or not Ireland becomes a part of the UK. That would be up to the Irish. Surely he should be petitioning the Dáil. Scott seems to suffer from the delusion that the only thing that prevents the Republic of Ireland from coming back under Westminster rule is the forgetfulness of a Westminster which hasn’t thought to ask it to come back. But in the world of the Brexist the only parliament which matters is the Westminster one, at least when it’s not trying to put obstacles in the way of the great Brexit unicorn chase that is.
If Ireland was a member of the British family it was a beaten and abused one. The Plantations, the Famine, the forced emigrations and dispossession, the lesser legal status of the native Irish, the partition, the wars, the institutionalised sectarianism of the Northern Irish statelet, none of that matters. Ireland’s true place is to make sure that the English nationalists who drive Brexit get what they want.
All of this would just be the online silliness of some random punter if it were not for the fact that the sentiments the petition expresses appear to be shared quite widely amongst the unicorn herders of Brexit. Just a few days ago, the veteran BBC presenter John Humphries asked the Irish Europe Minister Helen McEntee why Ireland didn’t throw in its lot “with this country”. He was apparently serious.
Last May, there was an article in the supposedly serious right wing digital magazine ThinkScotland, which is edited by Scotsman contributor and former Conservative MSP Brian Monteith. Entitled Is it not time for Ireland to come home? This article, quite incredibly, managed to blame Sinn Fein for the Partition.
The piece articulated the same sentiment as Scott’s petition and mused upon how great it would be for Britain and Brexit if Ireland stopped staying out late with the Germans, the French, and the Italians and “came home” to Westminster, where it could enjoy being told what to do and having no control over its money. Although if it was a very good and well behaved island, Westminster might give it some pocket money.
Well I say the article articulated the same sentiment as the petition, it was more like being hugged by an abusive drunk in a bar who kept saying, “I really lovesh you. Honesht,” even though it wasn’t that long ago that he had beaten you up, stolen your rent money, and thrown up all over your good shoes, and then he had blamed you for it. So not so much ThinkScotland as InsanelyDeludingYourselfScotland.
But all of this crazy is very much in line with how the Brexit process has developed. Brexit is a process of delusion, a species of self-deception. It’s founded upon the principle that the UK is special and uniquely kind and generous and that one of the most rapacious empires the planet has ever seen was motivated purely by altruism.
All these delusions are fed by the British press. It’s a media which doesn’t present news, but rather views, and it’s a media which is controlled by a small cabal of right wing multimillionaires. It’s a media which propounds false views, like the established truth of austerity, or that there is a trade deal bonanza to be had once the UK leaves the EU.
When confronted by one person insisting that it’s raining outside and another who claims that it’s dry and sunny, the British media insists that balance means presenting both claims equally. It doesn’t believe in giving the truth and explaining the facts. It doesn’t believe in looking out of the window. So Brexit is mired in claim and counter claim, in fictions which are given as much credence as fact.
The presentation of opinion as fact by the British media means that people end up believing that any sort of counterfactual nonsense is a serious and credible possibility. So they believe that Ireland deciding to submit itself once more to the Westminster Parliament is a realistic prospect. They believe that the UK is oppressed by Brussels. They believe that there is such a thing as a good Brexit. Or they believe that Scotland with its embarrassment of resources, its highly educated populace, and its diverse and strong economy is too poor to be a successful and prosperous independent nation. That’s the crazy that you get when opinion is presented as fact.
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