Land of hope and glory in chaos

National Business Review  has reprinted an article from The Economist about the Brexit deal, and how it is dividing Britain in more ways than one. quote:

NOBODY CAN accuse Theresa May of an unwillingness to repeat herself. The woman who said, again and again, that “Brexit means Brexit” is now telling Britain that her version of Brexit is the only version worth having. This morning the prime minister spent three hours extolling her deal to the House of Commons. This evening she spent a mercifully shorter period addressing the country via a press conference. Mrs May claims that her version of Brexit does two hard-to-deliver things. It respects the result of the 2016 referendum by taking back control of the Britain’s borders, ending the free movement of people. But it does so in a responsible way by ensuring frictionless trade with the EU. end quote.

Well, that sounds promising. With prisons full of Romanians, and the French basically allowing anyone to sail over to England from Calais, something really did need to be done. People from the poorer countries in Europe flocked to the richer countries, and Britain was always the most popular destination. quote.

Her press conference came after one of the most dramatic days in British politics in decades. At 9am Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, resigned on the grounds that he couldn’t bring himself to sell an agreement with “fatal flaws”. He is the second person in five months to resign from that job. A little later Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, quit. She is the eighth cabinet secretary to resign in the past year. During the morning two junior ministers and two parliamentary private secretaries resigned—and most Westminster-watchers expect more to go in the next few days.

At the same time Mrs May faces a growing rebellion within her own party. Shortly after lunch Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group and a man who, hitherto, has always proclaimed that he wants to change the leader’s policy not the leader, said that he was sending in a letter calling for a confidence vote on Mrs May.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s intervention makes it more likely that more Brexiteers will send in letters. And today’s general chaos also makes it more likely that middle-of-the-road MPs might have had enough of Mrs May’s leadership. Everybody agrees that she is a dutiful politician. But she is also an incompetent one who has brought much of this misery upon herself. She triggered the Article 50 exit process before Britain was ready, laid down red lines that turned pink and spent months negotiating a deal that fell apart on its first contact with political reality. end quote.

Doing a deal on Brexit was never going to be easy, but I can’t help wondering if someone like Boris Johnston might have been a better man to get a deal going. Trouble is, he washed his hands of the entire matter very shortly after the referendum was held. Teresa May is in trouble now. quote.

A leadership election would be embarrassing as well as bloody. The party would spend weeks tearing itself apart when it ought to be grappling with the most complicated bit of statecraft in a generation. It would destroy what little credibility it still has with voters. Young people in particular are already furious with the Tory party for dividing the country over Brexit. They will be more furious still if the party abandons itself entirely to civil war. end quote.

Divisions are even more likely because Ireland will still be in the EU, and both Northern Ireland and Scotland want to remain in Europe as well. How exactly that will play out remains to be seen, but it does nothing for unity in the United Kingdom.

The agreement allows the EU to stop the UK leaving the backstop/customs union when they wish, as they have an equal say in that decision. Britain has the sovereign right to withdraw from the UN, Nato and even the EU, but not from the perpetual membership of the customs union. Also, it will suffer extensive interference from the European Court of Justice. The UK has conceded  sovereignty in a way which it didn’t have to do as part of the EU – and are paying £39 billion for the privilege.

Teresa May should tell the EU this is unacceptable and it will not get through the House of Commons. She should demand that they pursue a different course, one that keeps the borders open without border checks and doesn’t require membership of the customs union. She should also tell them that the UK is content to leave without a trade deal, and trade on WTO terms, as 90 per cent of global growth will be outside the EU anyway.  quote.

It is hard not to despair about the state of British politics. Mrs May’s Brexit deal clearly offers a worse outcome than the status quo, including an obligation to obey the EU’s rules for the foreseeable future without any say over what those rules should be. Yet for all this awfulness, today’s debate in Parliament was surprising. Mrs May gave one of the best parliamentary performances of her career. Many other MPs were on impressive form. There was plenty of parliamentary rhetoric of a high order. The pity was that it was all devoted to appraising a deal that has little chance of making Britain a better place. end quote.

In the end, I think Britain will be much better off after Brexit. In spite of their geographical proximity, European countries are not natural bedfellows, and all the wars in Europe over the last 500 years bear witness to that. The problem is what happens in the interim. It will take a long time before Britain is truly free of Europe, and certain parts of it may remain a part of Europe. One thing is for sure. Britain is being overrun. And the security of their borders is a great place to start making Britain great again.


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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