For months I have waited with bated breath for the men in white coats to show up and wheel away the unfortunate victims of Mad Brexiteer Disease, who still run freely around Westminster. In the age of mental health awareness, we as a society must open up about the fact that the Tory uber-Brexiteers are raving lunatics. To follow Jacob Reese-Mogg’s cognitive process since the referendum is like watching a blind demented pensioner drive the Monaco Grand Prix. The man sees Remainers in his breakfast, conspiring to undermine his morning. Looking back,it is clear that no deal could ever be good enough for him, to the point of no deal being the only thing good enough. Follow this line of thinking to its illogical conclusion, and the Somerset MP’s next scheme will probably be a strategic alliance with Greenland, or a giant glass dome. Anything but Theresa May’s disastrous deal.
His band of fanatics in the European Research Group are as deluded as they are utterly ineffectual – menacing as they once seemed, they couldn’t mount a coup if Theresa May gave them a knife and lessons in backstabbing. And the sheer audacity of Tory MPs – that they think can afford a civil war with a Socialist relic from the 1970s on the threshold of Nr. 10 simply beggars belief. Leave it to theJohnson brothers, Boris with his no-deal, Jo with his no-Brexit, to play for Britain’s future in an epic sibling rivalry.
Of course, the Remoaners are hardly better. Ever since there was a first referendum, there has been animated discussion in the talking shops of Pall Mall about a second one – to hell with democracy. Entirely distinct from the righteous outrage of second guessing a whole country, the proposed second referendum is so obviously rigged it would be considered poor taste in a banana republic. A so-called People’s Vote is as flawed as the name – its engineers are entirely aware of the fact that a referendum with three options, two of which postulate a variety of Brexit and one remaining, mathematically guarantees a no-Brexit majority. Even if pro-Brexit sentiments were to have grown with double digits, a remain majority would only require 33.4%, not 50.1% as the binary 2016 referendum did. Whilst British political life seems over populated with the cognitively underperforming, this simple arithmetic has not been lost on them. Disguising a means to an end in democratic pretence is nothing short of insulting in the home of parliamentary democracy, and Brexiteers have every right to categorically reject a no-Brexit outcome.
That leaves us May’s deal – I’m chuckling, but seriously, let’s waste some more ink on this 508-page pipe dream. We could go into some length as to the specificities of the deal, and why it isn’t remotely as unpalatable as people say, but suffice to say that rather than a treating Brexit as a bold step out of Europe and into the world, May’s deal is an exercise in damage control. It attempts to negotiate the irreconcilable desires for economic security and uninhibited sovereignty that are the twin extremes of the Brexit debate. In this endeavour it succeeds, if such a dreary thankless enterprise could ever be successful. Unfortunately that is of no consequence, as chances are it will soon be chucked in the landfill of history.
Bizarrely, Brexiteers and Remainers agree why they don’t likeMay’s deal – comparatively, they’d be better off in the EU. For the former, Brexit is not done by degrees, but in binaries – one has either left a European Union, or one has not. May, the Mogg-Johnson cabal believes, is standing at the threshold, neither within nor without. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is clearly, in Churchill’s words, a ‘terminological inexactitude’. Labour has nothing to gain from backing an unpopular Tory bill, even if it accurately summarises the party’s own Brexit policy. The Liberal Democrats have reminded us they still exist, and will oppose any Brexit bill that entails Brexit. The raving zealots of the DUP cannot be relied upon for anything, save a dislike for the sensibilities of the 21st century. The Bill, I predict, will not pass. So what happens next?
As should be clear by now, there are no objectively good options.No deal Brexit and a second referendum – both have the potential for genuine disaster, but there are enough people convinced of Britain’s manifest destiny either within or without the EU to fight this very civil war for years. Such a newfound capacity for hysteria doesn’t suit the Anglo-Saxon temperament – crisis has become permanence, not a crescendo. I offer no panacea, apart from the comfort that had this level of institutionalised incompetence occurred in a younger democracy, with a more excitable populous, the establishment would have been swept from power by populist insurgents before you could say ‘Trump’. The Tories and Labour, equally incompetent in their own special ways, deserve each other. But we might deserve worse.