If Brexit somehow does not happen, historians will look back in awe at the part those who most vocally advocated the UK leaving the EU played in making sure it didn’t occur. From the moment following Cameron’s resignation to the present, a group of hardcore Leavers have been easily the most instrumental figures in bringing us to a point where Brexit itself is in doubt; all of the Open Britain, Soros stuff would have been mere dust in the wind without the part played by Brexiteers themselves in bringing our exit from the European Union into serious question.
I could go right back to picking May as leader, but there are much more recent examples. Davis and Johnson quitting did nothing to advance Brexit and in fact, set it back several paces. They want to table four amendments to the Customs Bill which serve no purpose other than gumming up the works and making Brexit seem even more undoable. They are threatening to vote down Mrs May’s deal with the EU, should she get one, something which would almost certainly kill Brexit dead. Only those amongst the Leavers such as Raab and Gove can be said to still be actively doing what they can to try and hasten our exit from the EU; they have realised, correctly, that we leave under whatever conditions May can get from the Commission, or we almost certainly do not leave at all.
All of this has led me to think that perhaps the hardcore Brexiteers don’t actually want us to leave the EU after all. I don’t mean consciously, as in they are involved in some sort of conspiracy to thwart “the will of the people”; it’s more of a subconscious thing. Deep down, way down, Brexiteers may find leaving no longer to their satisfaction. They had bet on the EU falling to pieces after the UK voted to leave it; the precise opposite thing has happened. Nothing they thought would follow in the wake of the Leave vote has really done so. I get it: why try and push for a Brexit which involves paying a lot of money to the EU to live under the same restrictions we had as a member, but without any say whatsoever? Or worse, be stuck in Brexit limbo for decades, paying in more and more simply to stand still? How much better it would be to watch Brexit fall apart and then get to be the ones who said it had been betrayed – to get to go back to grumbling about how everything is the EU’s fault again, and if only we’d done things differently, those sunlit uplands really would have been all ours.
Political movements tend to revert back to what they do best. One day soon, the centre-right will return to being pragmatic realists; the centre-left will return to championing actual public services and low wage workers; the proper Left will shrink back to being made up of twelve middle aged men in need of a wash discussing the betrayal of the Zinoviev Letter in a basement in Hackney; and the Brexiteers will head home as well, talking about how everything wrong with the world is everyone else’s fault, particularly the European Union’s, all of them freed anew from worrying about reality shining a light on their strange obsession.