Brexit Stage Left – What happens when the curtain falls on Brexit?

It is widely accepted that Brexit has decimated the norms of the UK’s political system, whatever the eventual outcome. It has exposed not just the flaws of our system of government, but also the deep divide across the electorate. By introducing the direct democracy of a referendum into a representative system, Brexit has eroded faith in our politicians, pushed the debate from rational to extreme, and pitched hard-right, moderate and hard-left voters against one another. This has brought about a level of vitriol among society that has taken many by surprise, commentators and politicians alike.

It has also led many to want to rip out their hair in anguish, smash their faces into their desks and/or scream “PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME, I DIDN’T MEAN IT” over the White Cliffs of Dover.

The sheer lack of empathy, understanding or responsibility from the leaders of the two main parties is unforgivable. Given the scale of the damage that leaving the EU could cause (with or without a deal), for Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to blithely and unashamedly stick their heads in the sand and simply return to the same, unsuccessful arguments over and over again is reprehensible.

Come what may, whether we leave the EU or not, historians and commentators will look back on this time as being the moment that Britain finally realised that its political discourse had to change. So, once the dust has settled, the inquest has been held and the heads have rolled, what do we do?

Put simply, we must ensure the creation of at least two more political parties. However, neither of them can be a centrist party, despite what logic might suggest.

An intrinsic part of the ineptitude of our government and shadow government is that neither are united parties. The Conservatives are being torn apart by ‘small-c’ and socially-liberal conservatives having to continuously fight against the openly hard-right factions, led by the grim spectre of the European Research Group and its glorious leader, Chairman Mogg. The Labour Party is led by a man who is essentially a communist, yet the party itself mostly consists of more moderate MPs.

As a consequence of this, if I were to vote Conservative, I would be giving a democratic mandate to both hard-right and centrist policy. If I were to vote Labour, then I would be giving a mandate to both communist and centrist policy. Because I believe in learning the lessons of history, I am neither a Nazi nor a Trotskyite. Therefore, I have very little inclination to give a mandate, or indeed a vote, to either of these parties.

The idea of a Corbyn government terrifies me, but the idea of being forced to vote for the Conservative party out of fear disgusts me. The Lib Dems, then? Realistically, they are never going to recover from the expenses scandal in their current incarnation – they have little or no clout within British politics.

So, if there is currently no viable party to vote for, surely a new, exciting centrist party, like the under-construction United for Change party, would be the answer? To an extent, yes – any new centrist party that cuts through the current political malaise sounds appealing. But what will happen to the great, established parties that have been at the forefront of British politics for well over a century? Are they to be left by the wayside and forgotten about? Is their wealth of knowledge and experience now completely bereft of value because of a few years of poor leadership?

If we create a new, artificial centre, then the Conservative Party would be forced to move right and the Labour Party would be forced to move left. A new party like United for Change would be exciting, certainly, but would it appeal to lifelong Conservative or Labour (or even Liberal Democrat) voters?

Despite the events of the last few years, a huge swathe of the electorate on either side of the divide will never change allegiance, despite its respective party’s performance. For many, politics is tribal, and to suggest that they jump ship now would be akin to telling Liverpool supporters to support Manchester United because ‘Manchester United understand you better than Liverpool do.’ It simply won’t happen. Even if some were persuaded to leave, would those voters in the safe-seat constituencies, the political equivalent of the ‘ultras,’ join them?

When the Gang of Four broke ranks to create the SDP (and subsequent SDP-Liberal Alliance), they did actually manage to garner a huge number of votes away from Labour in the 1983 election – 7.8m to Labour’s 8.5m. However, because of the nature of First Past the Post, they only won 23 seats compared to Labour’s 209. The voters in the Labour heartlands, the safe seats, remained loyal.

Were a new centre to be created, the lifelong centralist Labour voters, and indeed their Conservative equivalents, would stay loyal to their increasingly extremist parties, driven to the fringes of the political spectrum. As such, their loyalty would give their parties a false mandate to govern in a more extremist way – a vote for a moderate party is also a vote for an extremist party when the party contains both factions within it.

Additionally, our system is designed for us to elect MPs to represent their constituents’ worries and concerns, debate them in Parliament, and generate legislation – the people create the agenda. Who could honestly deny, however, that the “conversation” around Brexit, generated largely by more hard-line MPs and fuelled by an alarmist media, has led the agenda of the people instead?

While we, the electorate, are supposed to shape the debate for our MPs, we now live in a soundbite-laden, social media-infested, click-bait-heavy society where MPs, desperate to become a trending hashtag, shape the debate for us. Those who were once moderate voters will become far more susceptible to accepting hard-line views as standard party policy, rather than the extremist views they are.

The further to the right or left the two main parties go, the further they would take their voters with them ideologically, leaving only the “liberal elite” in the middle. Despite everything, I do have some faith in this country, and I believe that a centre party could win a number of seats in an election and maybe even do quite well. However, the reality is that the two main parties will have taken a sizeable number of votes with them to the fringes. Would a new centrist party really be able to win an overall majority?

If, as I do, you would like to see a rational, centrist government appear to help us through this post-Brexit hell-scape, by far the better option is to create a new hard-line party for both sides of the spectrum and leave the old parties to fall back into the centre.

Between Tony Blair taking office in 1997 and David Cameron leaving in 2016 we have seen the two major parties led by centrist leaders (the economic nightmare and subsequent fallout of austerity notwithstanding). One could argue that Labour’s roots lie in socialism, but in this modern, globalised society, the best place for both main parties to set up shop is in the middle of the political spectrum – still clearly and demonstrably right and left-wing, but without hard-line factions trying to pull them away.

To look at hard-line Brexiteer voters for the Conservatives today is to look at the UKIP voters of two and a half years ago. The fall of the far-right political parties like the BNP and UKIP has meant that they have had to clamber onto the side of the Conservative boat, veering it sharply to the right (although Theresa May’s stewardship has also given little resistance). The truly hard-left voices within Labour were silenced for so long by the abandonment of socialism during New Labour. Now they have been given a voice again by the cult of Corbynism, despite the fact that what made Corbyn so god-like to the youth vote in the first place was that he gave us an alternative to austerity, not that he was a communist.

Give these extremists their own parties. Before 2016, before the referendum that gave us this festering dog-mess called Brexit was even a twinkle in David Cameron’s eye, a far-right supporter was seen by most as something of a joke. They were a throwback to yesteryear, almost comical in how deluded they were. For instance, people adored Nigel Farage as being a parody of the British psyche, a real-life Alan Partridge. The remnants of the far-left met in pubs and grumbled, forgotten and irrelevant, with little political stock.

Now, both ideologies hold more power than ever before.

Give them parties that truly align to their beliefs. That way, they might sod off and stop ruining ours.

Strike One – Swing and a Miss

In baseball, softball or rounders, when you are batting you get three attempts to strike a good, pitched ball. If you swing three times without contact, you strike out.

The UK faced its first pitch last night. If we had connected with the ball, we could have either smashed it out of the park and begun the slow process of disabling a damaging and pointless Brexit, or at least given it a knock into the middle of the park and run to first base, delaying Brexit and preventing No-Deal on the 29th of March.

Instead, we swung the bat with pinpoint accuracy into our own face.

(Anyone who had the privilege of watching me play softball will understand this analogy.)

The result of last night is not the end of the world. It doesn’t resign us to crashing out of the EU without a deal, which I am learning more and more is far more damaging than many realised (and the mere prospect of which is already causing a considerable amount of damage to our economy). It doesn’t mean that Brexiteers like the ERG have won, and it doesn’t mean that leaving the EU is completely assured.

However, our MPs had the clearest and best opportunity to apply some bi-partisan common sense since we agreed to leave the EU last night and comprehensively bottled it. Had the Cooper amendment, a cross-party effort that legally guaranteed to delay our departure date and buy us some much-needed breathing space, been passed, we would have had the opportunity to take some stock of the situation and think clearly.

Instead, on we hurtle towards the precipice of a No-Deal Brexit with absolutely sod-all change.

But I thought that the new amendment allows us to renegotiate the deal with the EU? I thought it meant that we might actually be able to get a deal we can pass through Parliament?

The Brady amendment that was voted through by Parliament last night (some of those Conservative rebels that might have voted for Cooper thoroughly losing their backbone in the process) does buy us some new negotiating space. Sort of. There is definitely some truth in what Theresa May says in that she can now go to the EU and say, “The backstop issue is what is preventing this deal from being passed in Parliament because Parliament told me so with this vote. Therefore the backstop fundamentally has to change.”

This is as strong a negotiating position as May has been in for quite some time.

I hear a but…

When the result of the vote came through last night, it took Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, seven minutes to state, clearly and unequivocally, that the backstop was part of the Withdrawal Agreement and is completely non-renegotiable.

Oh. Cool.

Since then, President Macron has said the exact same thing. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the backstop was ‘necessary.’ The messages coming out of the EU are unified – the backstop will not be changed.

So, what could happen instead?

There is speculation that some extra legal wording could be added to the Withdrawal Agreement that clarifies what the backstop is, when it would come into effect, and that it is not indefinite. This legal jargon is probably what Theresa May will come back to Parliament with in two weeks’ time, given the lack of enthusiasm for fresh negotiations. When she returns with this new, shiny, exactly-the-same-but-with-some-bits-tacked-on deal, it will be put to a vote, just like her first deal.

Remember how that turned out?

Oh… yeah… Largest ever defeat. That’s a bit worrying.

But hang on. This time, there would be a spirit of unity, right? May has managed to get the Brexiteers on side, most of Parliament is resigned to Brexit happening and would surely vote in favour of a deal rather than No-Deal, right?

…Right?

Well, despite Reeces-Pieces-Moggy-Man saying that he was in favour of this new approach, and the ERG voted in favour of it last night, the ERG also immediately warned that the backstop was “Only the worst problem with the deal.”

Oh. That doesn’t sound too collaborative.

When you consider the past behaviour of the ERG, who are vehemently, ardently in favour of a hard Brexit (even so far as a No-Deal more than a soft one), then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that when May comes back with her wonderful, brand-spanking, exact same deal, they will say that it doesn’t go far enough and vote it down. They simply would have played May to the tune of their fiddle, saying that they could get on board with it when they had no intention of doing so from the beginning.

The rest of Parliament also has no real obligation to vote for a deal that they don’t believe in, and the legal additions to the backstop issue will simply not be enough to convert many MPs.

The next two weeks of negotiations would have been for nothing. We would have delayed anything constructive, made things even more fraught and furthered the prospect of No-Deal.

Well… shit.

So is there any good news?

Some. The fact that the Spelman amendment also passed means that Parliament has expressed a majority view that it doesn’t want to leave without a deal in place. While not legally-binding, the fact that there was a majority voice saying that No-Deal is bad is something that the government must listen to.

When the vote happens in two weeks’ time, if May’s deal fails again, the Spelman amendment means that alternative options to No-Deal should be given precedence, such as an extension of Article 50 or a second referendum.

But the whole thing is so just so utterly, completely avoidable. If the Cooper amendment had passed last night, we could have started thinking about these alternatives (or approached fresh negotiations) calmly and rationally. Instead, we gambled on the EU allowing changes to one part of a deal that has already been shot to pieces by the Parliamentary firing squad, which it said won’t do. We gambled on a second vote getting this deal passed, which is more unlikely than it is likely. We have prolonged uncertainty for businesses, EU nationals in the UK and UK expats living in the EU. We have pushed ourselves closer to the edge for no discernible reason.

Strike one. Straight into our own face.

Strike two comes after the vote in two weeks’ time. If we swing and miss the opportunity to delay Brexit again, we have smashed the bat straight into our own knackers.

Strike three comes at the eleventh hour, before we crash out of the EU with no deal in place. If we miss this time, we strike out.

We storm off, taking our bat with us, hitting every team mate in the face as we walk past them. We set the bat on fire and throw it through the window of an orphanage. We go home and draw a cross of St. George on our Vauxhall Corsa in Tesco own-brand ketchup, because Heinz sounds German or something. We throw out all of our IKEA furniture (“Stupid Swedish EU bastards”), and crack open a tinny of Stella Artois (“A proper English beer”). We sit on the floor, put on LBC and listen to Nigel Farage’s radio show, where he just openly laughs for the whole hour.

We decide we need a holiday. Spain sounds nice.

Swing, batter batter.

Amendmental – Today’s Amendments Vote Made Simple

And for all of the fun of the last few weeks, we’re now back into some real nitty gritty around Brexit.

Joy of joys.

The amount of detail about what is going on is almost mind-bending, so I’m going to do my best to break it down for you because some of the repercussions from today could be massive.

Some of these outcomes could feasibly alter the fate of Brexit entirely, with delays and extensions paving the way for a softer Brexit, a second referendum or, potentially, no Brexit at all.

We can but dream. But anyway, to business:

MPs, at the time of writing, are currently debating amendments to Theresa May’s Brexit plans. These are alternative suggestions to our current options, which are Theresa May’s deal, which was defeated in a historically large margin of defeat two weeks ago, or No-Deal.

…Or revoking Article 50 and pretending the whole referendum thing never happened, but that is about as likely as me being in the starting XV for England this Saturday.

These will be put to the house tonight after the debate – essentially those who have tabled the amendments will be asked, “Do you still want to vote on this?” The votes for those that still want to have their amendments voted upon will happen at 7pm tonight. There are three particularly interesting amendments, which we will come to. The others are all largely similar, attempting to either extend Article 50 or rule out No-Deal through legal or indicative means. They are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, so feel free to skip, but they are:

  • Corbyn:
    • Rule out No-Deal, allow Parliament to vote on an alternative Brexit deal for creating a permanent customs union and a version of EU’s single market (basically, that we have a clear trading policy with the EU).
    • Won’t get through – Conservatives won’t go for it.
  • Blackford:
    • Extension of Article 50, rules out No-Deal, emphasises role of all UK nations in Brexit process.
    • If Corbyn’s amendment is passed, then this won’t be voted on.
  • Spelman:
    • Prevent No-Deal Brexit but more just an expression of Parliamentary Will than legally binding (i.e. “This is what we want,” not “This is what you must do.”)
    • Very high chance of being passed.
  • Reeves:
    • Requires government to ask EU to postpone Brexit day (March 29th).
    • It will be killed by a previous vote for Yvette Cooper’s amendment, below…

Let’s start with Yvette Cooper‘s amendment as the first of the impactful amendments as it looks most likely to pass and could have the biggest overall impact.

  • The most popular amendment which prevents No-Deal.
  • Changes much of Parliamentary process, by allowing Parliament to make its ‘business’ a priority over the government’s ‘business’ – before, the government would always have precedence.
  • This amendment guarantees time in Parliament for a private member’s bill that would extend Article 50 to December 2019.
    • It binds Parliament to have to discuss and vote upon this bill, which was drafted by both Labour and Conservative MPs.
  • It has a good amount of backing, including the Labour front bench, although Corbyn wants the Article 50 extension to be three months, to July, rather than December. Some Conservatives back this too, though they will be whipped to vote against it (i.e. their party will ban them from doing so. They may rebel, however, and 26 look like they might).
  • There is a slight hint that the bill itself could be amended, too – this could take Brexit in a very different direction down the line…

Dominic Grieve’s amendment:

  • Forces the government to ask MPs for a range of alternatives to the Brexit plan, including Norway, No-Deal or a second referendum. This would happen by each MP giving a non-binding ‘indicative vote’ to show their preference.
  • Would have been interesting to see just how far the hunger for a second referendum might be in Parliament, but as Labour has now backed Cooper’s amendment it may not have as much momentum as it did.

Graham Brady’s amendment:

  • Arguably the most controversial amendment. Graham Brady is a very influential character within the Conservative Party, and his amendment is designed to make Theresa May’s deal strong enough to get a majority in Parliament.
  • It calls for an alternative to the backstop (an EU-demanded fall-back option that prevents a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the case that the negotiations over the transition period fail).
  • Theresa May has ordered Conservative MPs to vote for this amendment.
  • Some Conservative rebels, namely the ERG and Chairman Mogg’s Bastard Brigade, said that it was too vague and they would vote against it.
  • However, Theresa May has now said that she will renegotiate with the EU and ask them to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement (her deal) so that changes can be made to the backstop, which has got the rebels back on board.
  • The EU made it very clear last night that reopening the Withdrawal Agreement was categorically not going to happen…

So, to summarise: only Yvette Cooper’s amendment creates law, so long as her bill gets passed when it is voted on in Parliament. The rest are all advisory, but do carry real weight (a government cannot ask its Parliament for advice only to blatantly ignore it, especially on as hot a topic as this).

If Cooper wins her amendment and her vote, we will not leave the EU without a deal on the 29th of March. If Brady wins, Theresa May’s bargaining position is strengthened with the EU as she can tell them what she needs them to give her in order to secure a victory in Parliament, but they may still ignore her.

Either way, all of the amendments are focussed on trying to prevent No-Deal, improve May’s deal, or simply to get some common sense in place and break the deadlock, which can only be good things.

We’ll find out what happens at 7pm this evening… stay tuned!

…If you can be bothered.

I really don’t blame you by this stage if you can’t.

So Now What?

Brexit has been dominating our airwaves for what feels like eternity. Just as it feels as though we’re starting to get to grips with one (usually catastrophic) event, another rears its ugly head to bamboozle us even more.

Over the last seven days alone, we have seen Theresa May’s hard-fought deal for exiting the EU be voted down in the House of Commons by the biggest ever margin; Jeremy Corbyn call and then lose a Motion of No Confidence; the President of the European Council insinuate that Britain might not leave the EU; and the spectre of a Second Vote hang over the heads of both Conservative and Labour politicians alike like a democratic sword of Damocles.

So… what the hell is actually going on?

Let’s try to break things down a bit.

What’s currently happening, then?

 After last week’s resounding defeat of her deal, Theresa May and her government are currently holding cross-party talks (i.e. with non-Conservative MPs) in a last-ditch attempt to see if there are any potential changes to her deal that, if made, would mean that MPs would be happy to vote it through.

This second vote will be held on Tuesday 29th of January, with a full day’s debate the day before.

That sounds simple enough! Surely everyone can put aside their differences and work in the national interest?

Guess again.

Many of the Conservative “Red Lines,” or pieces of policy within the deal that the Conservatives would, hypothetically, refuse to budge on, are the fundamental issues that saw the vote be annihilated in the House of Commons.

Additionally, Jeremy Corbyn is currently attempting to play out a presumably well-intentioned, but also extremely unhelpful, power play. He is refusing to meet with Theresa May until she agrees that a “No-Deal Brexit” is no longer considered as an option.

Well, if we can’t negotiate a deal, then we should just leave without one, right? 

Mmm, sort of, if you want Brexit to happen.

The default legal position, as set out by Article 50 (the piece of legislation that Theresa May invoked to begin the process of leaving), is that Britain will leave the EU on the 29th March, with or without a deal.

However, the predictions around a No-Deal Brexit are worrying.

Brexiteers have been downplaying the negative effects that No-Deal might bring and, ultimately, they could prove to be right. As with all recent politics, the predominant arguments set by opposing sides is how terrible the other outcome would be, and the doom and gloom about a No-Deal Brexit may well be overhyped.

However, in this writer’s opinion, it would certainly be damaging (although perhaps not apocalyptic). If the UK left the EU without a deal, we would lose the transition period – a vital period between 29th March and 31st December 2020 where we would create and implement the new relationship with the EU and the policies required.

While we would have the chance to resolve these over the transition period if we had a deal, if we have a No-Deal Brexit:

  • All of our current legal processes would need to be restructured immediately, as we would no longer adhere to the European Court of Justice but would still be bound to the European Court of Human Rights, which is not an EU body (confusingly);
  • All of our trading deals with the EU would cease to exist and we would be forced to pay external tariffs on our trade with the EU, making our products more expensive and less appealing;
  • Our controls on immigration would be ours again, but unclear – expats in the EU and EU citizens here might find that their rights to live and work are no longer valid, for instance;
  • And the issue over the Irish border would be unresolved. Essentially, the Republic of Ireland would remain in the EU and Northern Ireland wouldn’t be – there are currently no customs on the border between the two nations (as negotiated during the Good Friday agreements, where the two countries ceased hostilities after decades of turmoil). So, NI citizens could, hypothetically, drive into Ireland, buy EU products for EU prices, then drive back into NI – this is extremely problematic.

Oh. That all sounds bad.

It’s all just-about-manageable, but extremely time-consuming, money-wasting and totally avoidable. Increased prices would hit the poorest people in the country the hardest.

Additionally, many leading businessmen have come out to express concern over No-Deal, which leads this writer to believe that the dangers are very real, much more than the words of politicians would.

That’s very cynical of you.

I know. I don’t care at this stage.

So, what are the other options?

 First, and least likely, is that Brexit is straight-up cancelled. If Article 50 is revoked, Britain can revert back to our current relationship with the EU (the European Court of Justice has promised this). However, Article 50 cannot then be reinstated so it would be a final decision.

Most would argue that this is brazenly ignoring the 52% who voted Leave, and so is extremely unlikely.

…Even though, in this writer’s opinion, we elect our MPs to make these decisions for us and not blindly listen to what us, the great unwashed, have to say on things we barely understand.

Sounds a bit demagogic.

Yep.

Anyway, the second option is that we ask the EU to extend Article 50, so we don’t leave the EU on the 29th of March. This seems reasonably likely, given that Britain has all of the calmness and clear-headed direction of 20 angry cats in a potato sack. If we ask the EU to give us more time to figure out what we want and how to get it, they are likely to give it to us.

However, even this seemingly reasonable option has its detractors – to those hard-line Brexiteers, this is going against the ‘Will of the People,’ who voted for Brexit as it was spelled out to us (i.e. not spelled out in the slightest). To change the default leaving date might worry them that Brexit might not happen at all, so they are vehemently against it.

That sounds a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Well, it gets worse.

Option three, which has been floating around the ether for some time now, is that we have a second referendum.

Whoa boy. That sounds like trouble.

Yeah.

Around 80% of Labour MPs are in favour of a second referendum, despite Corbyn being vehemently against it. Some Tories are in favour too, as well as the SNP and Lib Dems.

A second referendum could take many forms. It could be a second ‘In or Out’ referendum, but the worry here is that this would undermine the democratic rights of those who voted in the first referendum. It could be a two-tiered referendum that is ‘‘In or Out,’ and if Out then ‘Deal or No Deal?’’ Or it could be multi-vote referendum done in terms of preference.

But Remain would surely win a second referendum and put an end to this mess, right?

That is absolutely not certain.

While the public outcry into the liberal echo chambers that this writer inhabits would suggest that yes, a second vote would be overwhelmingly in favour of Remain, there is simply no way to know this for sure.

There are a huge number of ‘What-Ifs.’ For instance:

  • If the margin is 52%-48% in favour of Remain, is that a clear mandate to remain in the EU?
  • If Leave win again, what happens then? A No-Deal Brexit?
  • If Remain win clearly, what happens to the millions of people who voted Leave but saw their Government fail/refuse to do so?

My God this is depressing. There’s absolutely no way to make everyone happy at this stage, is there?

Nope, doesn’t seem that way. No matter what happens, a huge portion of the UK will feel cheated, ignored or belittled.

Christ. So, what will actually happen then?

In this writer’s opinion, on Tuesday we will finally see Theresa May’s deal put to bed for good. There are too many fundamental issues with the deal for it to be voted through by MPs across the political spectrum.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. There is a cross-party group of MPs that are trying their best to prevent a No-Deal Brexit, but would Theresa May really call for a second referendum? She has stated before that she would absolutely not allow one, and as she won a vote of no confidence within her party she cannot be challenged for the leadership until December.

So, she might step down when her vote is finally killed for good on Tuesday, but she is the most obstinate and durable Prime Minister we have seen in recent times so this seems unlikely. She seems utterly determined to see Brexit through to completion, whether it be a No-Deal Brexit, a bad deal Brexit, a Brexit-means-Brexit Brexit or a red-white-and-blue-Brexit.

Alternatively, we could just poke Angela Merkel in the eye, flick the bird to Emmanuel Macron, cut ourselves off from the world and just sit there between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, drinking British Ales from British Breweries, eating turnips, and proudly telling ourselves that we told those EU bigwigs what for.

Even though we will have regressed politically, legally, internationally and morally by about fifty years.

What’s even the point anymore?

I really don’t know.

Rue Britannia.

‘MMMMNNNNEEEEEEUUUUUURRRRRGHHGHHH.’

And so, with the wearied, defeated and yet somehow inevitable sigh of the liberals, thus ends around sixty years’ worth of political dialogue. Barring an upset the likes of which British politics hasn’t seen since a certain porcine potentate told the entire Catholic religion to do one ‘coz he fancied another bird, today marks an historic day for the United Kingdom.

According to Brexiteers, this is not a day where we decide to listen to those who have studied the nature of our country for decades. Nor is it a day where we finally take stock of ourselves as a nation within a globalised economy and think about what that entails. It is not a day where we finally begin to understand that Britain is no longer an empire, but rather a middling-to-fair, services-based economy among the global echelons that understand our value but scoff at our self-importance…

…No!

Today is the day that we realise that we have the power to be the trend-setters.

(At this point, I imagine a solitary party-horn blowing in the distance –  the sad, atonal rasp cutting against the sound of gale-force winds blowing through the few remaining leaves of the decimated, cigarette butt and plastic bag-infested forest we stand in.)

The trend that we are currently setting, as a major player in international politics (still, somehow), is that opinion, gut-instinct, suggestion and hyperbole are all more important factors than science, quantifiable data, the base standard of general economic study and, most importantly, fact.

Not a fact. Not any fact. Just fact.

FACT.

Something, by definition, that is quantifiable, provable, and indisputable.

In truth, we realised this on the 23rd June, 2016, we just didn’t know it yet.

The moment that David Cameron (or rather, his snivelling, success-grabbing goblins that could begrudgingly be called advisors) called a referendum to decide the fate of the United Kingdom’s policy on EU membership was the moment that we were entirely, unilaterally, and unequivocally fuuuuucked.

The conversation around Brexit isn’t about what’s best for Britain anymore, but what people believe is what’s best for Britain. These are opinions that can never be fully accurate given the sheer scale of what Britain’s myriad international treaties and regulations define in terms of our status in the world. Brexit isn’t a debate, it’s a screaming competition, where we just believe that if we shout hard enough and louder than those around us, we will win.

Without going into too many of the distinct details, in my lifetime I have lived under the following governments:

  • John Major, who had to deal with the repercussions of Thatcherism (although I was between the ages of 0 and 6 at the time, so didn’t really understand all that much);
  • Tony Blair’s Third Way Labour, where he promised so much and yet delivered so little;
  • Gordon Brown’s Labour Government that served without a mandate;
  • David Cameron’s coalition, which destroyed the only electable centrist party;
  • David Cameron’s majority, which gave us Brexit;
  • And, finally, Theresa May’s All-You-Can-Eat buffet of Snooper’s Charter spying, Fuck-All-The-Immigrants, Fuck-All-The-Police (‘Even though I cut all their funding’), Fuck-The-NHS, and stupid fucking Brexit everyfuckingwhere.

Also the fundamentally racist Windrush wankshittery.

Our political system has been entirely caught out by the divisions in our country, brought glaringly into the limelight by David Cameron in 2016 through sheer arrogance and a desire to consolidate power. In my lifetime, trust in government has fallen to a catastrophically low level – just look at the governments above and tell me which one had any form of cohesion to it.

There was a time where I naively thought that Cameron brought a form of socially-liberal, ‘Small-C’ conservatism to our country when we needed it the most. Now, we don’t just need something new, our democracy cannot live without it.

We cannot suffer a political discourse where a rational person, who understands both the pros and cons of a globalised economy, can vote in favour of the out-and-out fascism that the ever-divided Conservative Party panders to more and more. The Conservative Party should be the party of pragmatism (or at least the party of considered opinion and rational policy), yet it finds itself split between out-of-touch politicians trying desperately to understand how to work Instagram and Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Dickensian orphanage patron who delights in the suffering of those born unto poor stock.

Nor can a rational person vote in favour of a single-nation socialist government, as an increasingly not-as-messianic-as-we-first-thought Jeremy Corbyn has positioned the Labour Party into as divided a position as the Conservative Party. Not only is Labour dealing with antisemitism, (see Rachel Riley’s Twitter feed if you dare) but the party as a whole is far too divided between left/centrist Blairites and nigh-on Marxist socialists. I wish there was a way for Utopianism to still be a realistic aim but, unfortunately, we are way, way too far gone into capitalism, whatever Owen Jones says.

The Liberal Democrats are dead in the water after the tuition fees scandal and will never realistically resuscitate themselves, the Green Party is, at best, a lobbyist group and UKIP can, to each and every one of their members, suck hard and true upon my anus.

I do not have a single party that I want to vote for, which is a fundamental systematic failure of our political system. I believe that many people feel the same way.

And yet this useless, merry-go-round government, a minority government at that, believes that taking us out of Europe is the answer, because 52% of a well-meaning but entirely uninformed public says they thought it was a good idea two years ago.

Whatever happens next, Brexit cannot be the answer. Britain no longer has dominance on the world stage, other than soft-power. We have the ability to be the awkward, confusing and obtrusive partner that an arrogant EU needs. We are the one nation that is still somehow proud of its empire but also willing to teach the lessons we have learned from something so far reaching and yet, to so many, so terrible. We are the nation that the free countries of the world rallied to during the final World War, emerging victorious through international cooperation and alliance.

Yet we are turning our back on this.

To follow through on Brexit, especially as it is defined by this compromised deal from a government that couldn’t negotiate a straight road without crashing into a blazing fireball of ineptitude, would be to deny what Britain is – an awkward wanker of a nation that Europe loves to hate, but Europe needs.