Britain’s paper-tiger politicians

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Elite Remainers have taken recently to saying that Brexit is impossible. Rather than saying it is wrong, or dumb, or mad, etc, they’ve fallen back on this idea that it was never going to fly to begin with.

It is a strange, almost cowardly kind of argument, which avoids many of the big questions and challenges that Brexit raises. But it also lets the government off the hook for the dog’s dinner it has made of Brexit this past 12 months.
Indeed, when the history of Brexit is written, 2018 will go down as the year the British political and bureaucratic classes proved they were even more incompetent, weak and ineffectual than many of us gave them credit for.

In their seeming inability to implement Brexit, they have proved how feeble their right to rule was in the first place.
This year, the Northern Irish border has become the defining issue of the Brexit negotiations, with the so-called backstop the key stumbling block to PM Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement gaining the approval of parliament.

It is now treated as holy writ, as if this mechanism, designed to keep trade flowing across the Irish border, even if no EU-UK trade deal is signed, has always existed, has to be in the Withdrawal Agreement, and anyone who denies this is decried as chasing ‘unicorns’.
But it is just a year old, agreed by Britain and the EU at a summit in Brussels last year. May, desperate to have talks move on to the next stage, happily signed up to it, setting the stage for the parliamentary trench warfare that was to ensue.
If we ever entered the backstop – and given how torturous negotiations have been so far, that would be likely – Britain would be trapped in a customs union with the EU, while Northern Ireland would also be kept in parts of the Single Market.
We would effectively become a non-voting member of the EU, with less sovereignty than we had as a full member. Crucially, we wouldn’t be able to leave of our own free will. There is no Article 50 – no escape hatch. We would need Brussels’ approval to leave.
So May is offering a perverse kind of Brexit, in which the public demand to ‘take back control’ has been met with an offer to turn the UK into an EU colony. And not only has she sold out the people, she has also managed to unite parliament against her.
Brexit-backing backbenchers see May’s deal, rightly, as vassalage. The Democratic Unionist Party (which props up May’s minority government) see it, rightly, as driving a wedge between Belfast and London. Anti-democratic Remainers point out, rightly (but for all the wrong reasons), that this is worse than EU membership.
And Labour was never going to back it anyway, even if it somehow met its farcical ‘exact same benefits’ test.

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