Thursday, 30 January 2020

The real Brexit day is a long way off

Whether one is pro or anti Brexit is now more or less irrelevant. As of Friday night the UK is no longer a member of the EU and the probability of reversing that decision is remote. We all now share in the consequences of that decision and we all have a stake in fashioning the outcomes.

In respect of that, Brexit day is just another day. It is an important milestone, and yes it's something to celebrate, but the work goes on. I do not believe there are sunlit uplands, and the more I survey the wreckage of the post-referendum era the less convinced I am we are equipped to tackle the inevitable problems we are sure to face. Our EU strategy is deeply flawed while our wider trade policy is rudderless. Liz Truss mouthing the platitudes of "Global Britain" is a dispiriting spectacle.

As to the outcome of the future relationship talks, I'm far from optimistic. Nothing has been learned from the last round of negotiations and Brexiteers are still in the grip of a flawed belief system so whichever way it goes, it does not end well. If you thought the last three years were turbulent, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The essential problem here is that we are "taking back control" from Brussels and giving it to a rabble of disorganised, ill-informed bozos who know virtually nothing about the country they are tasked with running. Brussels may have been on a different landmass but Westminster resides on another planet. It's actually quite easy to see how some people welcome the arrival of strong man dictators in that they at least have an idea what they want and a plan on how to get it. Remainers preferred the EU for much the same reasons. There was at least a direction.

This is where the UK has serious problems. Our politics is bitterly divided while the Scottish separatists are exploiting the division. How can we expect the Scottish to buy into a Union when the whole country is in the midst of an identity crisis and a deep running culture war. If a nation is defined by its common values then the UK is in trouble. Especially so when the Northern Ireland protocol is fully realised. It would seem that the Brexit wars are unfinished business.

This is where Boris Johnson has it hopelessly wrong. The Tory party machine would have it that Brexit is done and dusted and now we're getting all the "move forward together" guff. Ain't nobody buying it. The clapping seals who converge on the Farage jamboree in Parliament Square who think sunlit uplands are just around the corner are the minority of leavers. Most understand the gravity of what we set in motion and recognise we're on a long and difficult road.

As to our European relations, the relationship with the EU will not be settled. The outcome of the future relationship is far from the final destination. Our relationship is an ever evolving continuum. This matter will not be settle a year or even ten years from now. The Johnson administration may be the ones to sign off on the treaty, but the shaping of that relationship will fall to his successor, whoever that may be.

Between now and then Britain will gradually wake up to the economic and political consequences of the decisions we make now. The promise of a Northern revival and a coastal renaissance will fail to materialise. The promise to end austerity won't happen. Brexit will prove to be no remedy to our economic woes. With any luck the rest of the country will be joining Scotland in deciding it doesn't want to be ruled by Westminster.

We are told that Brexit means we can no longer blame Brussels and the buck will stop with our own politicians after Brexit but we all know that's not going to happen. The Brexiteers are not going to take responsibility and when the EU treats us as the third country we chose to become, it will be the beastly foreigners "blockading" the UK as a punishment.

Of course, the litany of excuses will serve them for a time being that the Spectator and Telegraph will do all they can to hold the line but you can't take the British people for fools. Every major change of government in the UK has been the right decision. We have always kicked out the arrogant when their time was up. The Tories are not immune and soon their shit will begin to stink.

In many respects tomorrow is not Brexit day, nor is Brexit day the end of the transition. Brexit in the wider context is not only our departure from the EU but also the shedding of an antiquated and broken system of government. After all, much of the criticisms levelled at the EU apply in equal measure to Westminster.

The disheartening part, though, is that the insurgent movement built from the ground some three decades ago has been all but crushed. Instead of building a movement to leave the EU and carry us forward, Farage build a movement to secure and win a referendum. The establishment has taken back control for itself and Boris Johnson will hand it back to its previous owners. Instead of converting the Brexit machine into a vehicle for reform we now face the long road of building a movement from the ashes. Without the help we had from the EU last time, it may be a longer, harder road. With that in mind, I may as well celebrate tomorrow, because I may not live to see the real Brexit day.

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