It’s nearly a week since the UK referendum on leaving the European Union, but many are still stuck in the denial phase, trying to argue that brexit is in some way unlawful, or will be prevented by Scotland. Maybe it’s true that Parliament will be required to pass an Act to leave the EU, but I’m not sure that means much. As I see it, there are basically two options here:
The first option is some sort of exit from the EU, under terms to be discussed. The terms won’t be discussed, however, until the UK commits to leaving as per Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. They won’t be good terms, that’s for sure.
The other option is for the UK government to perform some sort of groveling apology to the other European nations and make some major concessions on policy, in return for being allowed to forget about the whole referendum thing.
While the latter would probably result in the best outcome for England, from an economic point of view, I just don’t see the Conservative Party going that route. It would utterly infuriate many of the party faithful, as well as all the Ukip supporters who have already defected.
Some are suggesting that it’s time for a snap General Election. The problem is, both parties are effectively leaderless right now.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn played up his anti-Europe positions before the referendum, and as a result has now been hit with a vote of no confidence from his own party. Since then, the pro-Europe MPs who refused to back him have been receiving death threats, something which they are probably taking pretty seriously given what happened to Jo Cox a couple of weeks ago.
Meanwhile on the Conservative side, MPs have been told that their unelected masters Dacre and Murdoch won’t back Boris Johnson. While Boris was apparently persuaded to turn ‘eurosceptic’ by Michael Gove, but has now been stitched up by his own backers. So now he slinks away leaving someone else to clean up the mess. If things get really bad, well, he’s still got his US citizenship.
Michael Gove’s machiavellian wife says she reacted to the referendum result with bemusement:
‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off,’ I said, in my best (i.e. not very good) Michael Caine Italian Job accent.
So Gove is now lined up for the Prime Minister’s job; his main competition seems to be Theresa May, who days ago was celebrating the chance to ditch the European Convention on Human Rights, but has suddenly done a complete U-turn and said she has no plans to do any such thing. She even dressed in tartan in an attempt to pander to Scotland.
Technically the Liberal Democrats still exist, but since Nick Clegg destroyed the party’s support in 2010 they’re not really relevant to the discussion. Speaking of Nick Clegg, though, he was pretty damn prescient in 2014:
Imagine again what it will be like in 2020, but this time with the Conservatives in Government on their own. Britain, diminished and divided after a botched attempt to renegotiate our relationship with Europe and a vote to withdraw from the European Union. Companies pulling out of the UK left, right and centre, the markets losing confidence, hiking up our borrowing costs and halting the recovery in its tracks. […] A Tory party leadership in hock to their right wing, desperately running after and pandering to UKIP’s ugly nationalism. A Prime Minister trapped between being a poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and a rich man’s Nigel Farage. “Compassionate Conservatism” just a sound bite from a bygone age.
Pity he didn’t think about that before backing the Tories in a coalition, eh?
Over all this chaos hangs the date 21st July. That’s when the entire UK government buggers off for their summer holidays. My prediction is that they might just about decide who’s running each party by then, but they absolutely aren’t going to do anything about the rest of the mess until they go back to work early in September. So it’s a slow crisis; it built up slowly, and it’s continuing slowly. If it seems like the FTSE has recovered, well, it’s really early days yet. Most companies are taking a “wait and see” approach, because there’s no point spending a fortune moving their base of operations until they absolutely have to. Accordingly, the first big job losses won’t happen until after the Article 50 button is pushed later this year. (I’d like to be wrong about either of those things, of course.)
The people who aren’t waiting around are the racists. In Birmingham, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a halal butcher. In London, a Jewish woman was verbally abused on the train. A Swedish woman in York was subjected to racist abuse outside her own home. English racism is so refined that you can be white and blonde and still told to “go home”.
The broken promises continue. Fishermen who thought they’d be able to catch more fish outside the EU received their bad news — no, quotas will not increase. And yet again, EU politicians have said in no uncertain terms that there will be no ‘a la carte’ trade deals with England.
While it’s pretty clear that the people who voted for brexit have economic grievances, data suggests that migrants had nothing to do with it. The crippling effects of neoliberal economic policy go back to Thatcherism, and with a Tory government in power leaving the EU isn’t going to end those policies. If you were promised otherwise, well…
Finally, in my last article I posted a photo of Nigel Farage at the EU parliament, with a European politician facepalming in the background. That man was Vytenis Andriukaitis, and his thoughts on brexit are worth reading.