Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Red White & Blue – or “Dinner means Dinner”

People talk about the sort of Brexit that there is going to be – is it hard or soft, is it grey or white. Actually we want a red, white and blue Brexit: that is the right Brexit for the UK, the right deal for the UK.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, quoted on BBC News Website, 6 December 2016 | Theresa May: We want a red, white and blue Brexit

Red as in bloody, white as in the eventual surrender and blue as in the party who will ensure that it gains the most? Is Red White and Blue Brexit any closer to reality than “Brexit means Brexit”?

Has Theresa May realised that her three Brexiteers basically don’t have a clue and cannot advise her?

We are seeing the three amigos starting to squabble amongst themselves. Liam Fox appears to want Brexit on WTO terms (what many see as hard Brexit), David Davis talks of contributions to access the single market (what some see as a softer Brexit) and Boris Johnson talks of allowing some free movement (which is apparently totally against what the majority voted for). It appears to be chaotic.

In some ways is not their fault. The chicken that is coming home to roost is the mess that was the referendum question. The Electoral Commission might be blamed for this, but they were only trying to make the question “balanced”. The two options were effectively decided by the Master Strategist who used to occupy Number 10.

The “Remain” option was the EU status quo – marginally amended by Cameron’s four concessions. Most of the 48% knew what they were voting for – although some may have said that the Cameron concessions made the EU less attractive.

Cameron never bothered to define the “Leave” option; after all it was not as if the people would vote for “Leave” – so why bother? His primary delusion was that the discord was within his own parliamentary party and that the people would get him out of his little local difficulty. That they declined to do so was due to his second delusion – that what he saw in Parliament was representative of the country as a whole. (He does not believe in an electoral system that ensures that the diversity of opinion in the country is represented in Parliament. He would rather remain in ignorance until the mob bite back. His fault. Our problem.)

So, “The people voted to leave the EU”. Does that mean that we should just trigger Article 50 tomorrow and pick up the pieces later? Or possibly just ignore the EU and repeal the European Communities Act by vote in Parliament and let the EU pick up the pieces?

I don’t think that 52% thought that is what they were voting for. The uncomfortable truth is we don’t know exactly what they were voting for. There are a series of Leavite propositions with varying degrees of toughness:

  • Pay nothing to EU / Pay for participation in certain programmes (e.g. Erasmus) / Pay for access to the single market (Norway style)
  • No migrants from anywhere / only (all those) migrants that (Ozzy style) meet points “criteria” / only migrants who can contribute (except …) / accept EU migrants in exchange for …
  • Totally Tariff-free Trade / WTO terms / Membership of the Customs Union / Access to the Single Market / Membership of the Single Market
  • No recognition of: European Court of Human Rights / The European Court / recognition of both
  • Visa-based travel / Visa-free travel to Europe for the British
  • Closed borders with the EU / Open border with the Irish Republic
  • More money for NHS / £350m per week for NHS / NHS funding not seen as relevant

Those who voted Leave will probably have had a view on each of these propositions. Some will have supported combinations that fit with one of the major recognised flavours of Brexit. However some will have voted for combinations that we are very unlikely to achieve even with Buffo-like quantities of optimism – or even an extreme Britain waives the rules mentality.

So how do the three Brexiteers cobble together a strategy for achieving a deal that will keep at least 48 out of every 52 Leave voters satisfied? I don’t think they can.

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man
‘We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave!’
The Eagles: Hotel California, written by Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, 1977 Lyrics © Cass Country Music / Wisteria Music / Privet Music, Warner/Chappell Music, inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, Red Cloud Music

But perhaps they don’t have to. Even if the current Supreme Court finds against the Government, it is likely that our spineless Representative Parliament (which is overwhelmingly of a remain disposition) will none-the-less vote to allow the Brexiteers to do “the best the can” – whatever that means.

If that is the case, “Brexit means Brexit”, is good enough and effectively means Brexit is whatever we end up with.

But then “Dinner means Dinner”. Which to some is the mid-day meal (but to others is Lunch or Luncheon depending on how refined you wish to appear to be), but to others is the main evening meal (which to others is High Tea or Supper – unless Supper means the late night snack). But Dinner still means Dinner at the individual level. Collective agreement is the impossibility.

It is that impossibility that will eventually decide the May premiership and the country’s future. She and we have her predecessor to thank for that.

Thanks Dave.

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