It’s getting hard to know what to say about all of this. I mean, there is so much going on, technically speaking, that there should just be so much to talk about. Strangely, no. Take Theresa May’s speech on Wednesday. It was awful, sure, yet it was no more awful, really, than any other speech she’s given recently. Maybe a bit nastier, I suppose. But it was really just more of the same non-information recited in monotone.
I guess I could go on to say that the speech made literally no tactical sense whatsoever. I mean, to get the deal through she has to get MPs to want to vote for it, right? So, she gives a speech to the nation in which she derides all MPs from all parties. The idea here, seemingly, was that she was addressing the nation directly. But we don’t have a presidential system, so that’s just really stupid. If she wants her vote to have any chance of succeeding, she needs to get MPs on board and she seemed to have blow that to pieces with Wednesday’s speech.
Further, a chance to get her deal through had landed in her lap without any of her doing. Basically, parts of the House had managed to make the threat of a long extension very real. This was bringing several Eurosceptics over to vote for her deal, their thinking being, if the House is going to delay Brexit a long time, perhaps May’s deal is worth swallowing. And then she goes and takes that off the table by saying there will only be a short delay. So, not only has she taken the long extension off the table that was working for her, she has shown that her threats are meaningless as well. It’s like she thought of the best way to get as many of her Leavers MPs not to vote for the deal as possible and then just went for it.
Then yesterday in Brussels, more fun. Journalists reported that in her session with the Council members “she had not done well”. This is understatement at its finest. It was so bad, the Council had to come up with a plan for her. We now have until April 12th to commit to EP elections and a long extension of the Article 50 period. Take back control in full effect.
Here’s what I just don’t get about Brexit, and trust me, I’ve really tried. It has resulted in a series of national humiliations over the last few years, with no apparent upsides. Everything predicted by the Brexiteers – that EU unity would crumble, that they would fold at the 11th hour, that a good deal would be easy to get – have spectacularly failed. I guess they just blame May. Perhaps that was what her allure was to them all along.
It is genuinely weird to see otherwise rational centre-right conservative folk buy into such obvious bullshit like the wonders of a free trade deal with America. “They’ll deal with us as equals! Our children will get freedom of movement in the US!” None of that is going to happen as anyone who knows anything about how actual trade deals work or indeed, anything whatsoever about American history over the last century. The Americans play rough with this sort of thing. A free trade deal with America is always extraordinarily sub-optimal – ask the Canadians or the Mexicans. Add to that the fact that the current American president is an avowed protectionist. Of all the things about Brexit that baffles me, I’d actually put this top of the list.
There is one thing I will say in the positive for Leavers: they are right that people know what they voted for when they voted Leave in June 2016. I genuinely believe that this is what they voted for, a big, chaotic mess for Westminster to try and cope with. A possible breaking of the political system along with that. They were sick of politics as usual and figured this was their one chance to tear it all down – and they were right about that.
Looks like another few weeks of national humiliation lie in wait, whatever happens. Again, otherwise rational people just don’t seem to understand that no deal would result in the biggest embarrassment of all. We’d suddenly be in a position of having to beg the EU for whatever handouts they decide to give, all of our bargaining power out the window. They aren’t desperate to avoid no deal, chaps – they are desperate to avoid the blame for making it happen. It’s a PR exercise for them, mostly. How anyone still fails to see that now is beyond me.
Best guess of what will happen this week? Either Bercow won’t allow the deal to be voted on again, or he will and it will lose extraordinarily badly again – perhaps even worse than the first time, such is the bad blood caused by Wednesday. Then I want to say that May will probably resign – yet I can’t really see it happen. Can you? Then the desperate back and forths to avoid the next cliff edge. What a time to be alive and in Britain.