Monday, 25 March 2019

Back to reality

I almost feel guilty for taking a week off at such a crucial stage of Brexit. I'm glad I did though because it doesn't look like I missed much. For there to be anything worth saying we need to know which direction we are going in and for that parliament would have to make an affirmative decision - which it has not done. It has done everything to avoid making one so we are drifting further toward an accidental Brexit.

Taking time out, though, was valuable. I've been our exploring the Fens and the Norfolk coastline, catching only glimpses of the news and being too busy for Twitter. Like a normal person. That was instructive. If anything it's a reminder that Twitter is only really important to people who use Twitter.

For the most part I even managed to miss out on all the noise about the supposedly million strong protest in London. I certainly didn't miss anything. There was nothing to say about it. It was about as big as the last one and equally incoherent. Apart from being a generic whinge to stay in the EU, it had nothing to say for itself. I managed to catch a few of the vox pops where again Guardian reading simpletons saw fit to tell me I didn't know what I was voting for.

It would have been an opportunity to roll out all the stereotypes about Waitrose warriors, but we've all done it before and there is nothing at all original to say about it. Nor is there anything to say about the five million strong petition. Paul Embrey said it best. "Sixteen million were willing to walk or drive to a polling station to say the same thing. Hardly significant that a third of them have clicked on a mouse to tell us they haven't changed their minds". Within a week, nobody will be talking about it. 

For sure it all had a novelty value for a bored media that needs something to chew on but for the rest of us getting on with our lives there is essentially no change. The remainers were always going to have a massive coordinated whinge in the final hour but the rest of us still expect our votes to be respected and the verdict of 2016 to be honoured.

The far bigger news of the week was the administrative delay where it looks as though the EU has given up any hope of the UK ratifying a withdrawal agreement or coming up with a viable proposal in order for the deal to pass. There is a short window for parliament to get its act together but if it hasn't by now then it never will. The EU now believes the UK will leave on April 12 without a deal.

Instead of seeking to avert such an outcome there seems to be a prevailing sense of futility so our media has retreated to the comfort zone of leadership contests and no confidence votes. We are marking time until fate makes our choices for us. 

If this is how it unfolds then this will be a failure of every political institution. Future historians will puzzle as to how something so undesirable could have happened when almost universally opposed by every branch of politics. It really comes back to the basics. Any idea will prevail in the absence of alternative ideas. 

When parliament voted for Article 50 they knew they couldn't get away with ignoring the referendum. Even now, the majority of them understand that this is now bigger than the Brexit issue. This is a full blown constitutional crisis where democracy itself hangs by a thread. The power, though, was always theirs to avert it. They could have ratified Mrs May's deal or they could at any point in the last three years have developed a more attractive proposal. But they didn't.

There have been pockets inside the Commons pushing alternate plans, but with the opposition writing themselves out of the process, the Lib Dems hell bent on remaining and various MPs attempting to sabotage the process the whole time, they cleared the way for the worst plan of all. The ERG will profit from parliament's own inertia.

If anything I should have stayed on holiday for another week. This slow motion trainwreck is now beyond anyone's ability to influence or control. The ones who thought they could influence and control it saw fit to exclude alternative voices from the debate thinking they knew it all so this mess now belongs to them. They're welcome to it and much deserve it. 

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