Friday, November 16, 2018

Brexit: An Uninformed Opinion

I'm continually astonished at the internal politics of the British Conservative Party. We here on this side of the Pond only think we've got rough and tumble politics. There are headlines for days when Cocaine Mitch McConnell raises his voice above a creaky growl or when Ted Cruz gets shouted at by some unemployed baristas while he's trying to eat human meat at the secret Lizard Person Restaurant in D.C. that everyone knows about but no wants to mention out loud in public.

Kids, I'm telling you, it ain't nothing on the internal politics of the British Conservative Party. Game of Thrones? Pshaw. Who needs it! Get yourself some popcorn and a live blog from The Guardian or the Beeb and you'll have entertainment for days... it is, I imagine, somewhat like being trapped in a burlap sack with three hundred and thirty feral cats, most of whom are in heat. Someone might have a good time in a situation like that, but it probably won't be the Head Cat in Charge.

Look, there are fundamental problems with the EU as it's currently set up. It does involve surrendering a certain amount of sovereignty in the name of greater political and economic cooperation- but it comes with a lot of conveniences and economic benefits that it seems like a lot of Europeans are willing to go along with- at least to a point. I don't think Brexit is an isolated thing. I think if you pop the hood on any given European country and rooted around a little bit, you'd probably find that people aren't all that thrilled by having dictates handed down to them by a bunch of faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. If strange women lying on their backs in ponds and handing out swords is no basis for a system of government, we can hardly be surprised when voters think the same things about the EU's distant, vaguely democratic governing structure.

So, yes, articles like this which want to save British democracy by 'taking back control'* aren't entirely wrong. But they all suffer from one fatal flaw: I don't think the Conservative Party under David Cameron called the referendum to actually give the voters a say in whether they wanted to Brexit or not. I think it was about shutting up the Eurosceptic wing of his party. I think it was about outflanking UKIP.** I don't for one second think that he actually thought the country would vote to leave...

And that's the flaming bag of dog shit that was handed to Theresa May and to be honest, she's done about as well you could expect for someone holding a bag of dog shit that's on fire. Granted, she illustrated why snap elections are never a good idea*** and thought she had a plan, which got laughed out of the room after Chequers and then managed to hammer out a deal with the EU which she presented to her Cabinet only to find out that as with such big, messy important things, the compromises necessary to produce anything at all please absolutely nobody.

To me, it was obvious that the politicians were only saying they wanted to Leave when they started negotiating with the EU to begin with. The British Government has been prairie-dogging this particular turd for months now, unsure if they want to shit or just get off the pot altogether. My preference would have been to shit from day one. (If you say you're going to do something, then do it. I don't really have an opinion on Brexit one way or the other. I can see why people wanted to Leave and I can for sure see why folks wanted to Remain.) Prepare for a No Deal Brexit. Send out your envoys to negotiate trade deals. Get some economic love going with the major Commonwealth countries. Figure out a deal with Ireland. And granted, I know, its far far more complicated than that. Undoing four decades of ties with Europe isn't something that one can do in a paragraph- but for crying out loud, you'd think that if they were committed to honoring this non-binding referendum of theirs that the Conservatives would have, I don't know, been ready to implement something with a modicum of competence on day one?

Preparing for a No Deal Brexit from Day One would have been a good start. Accepting that the EU was never going to give the UK a good deal from Day One would have been another. They don't want to give other member states ideas- it goes back to that fundamental problem with it's distant, vaguely democratic governing structure. People (he said, with no scientific basis for his assertion whatsoever) probably aren't crazy about having national governments be subject to some damn council somewhere else. They'll put up with it, because you know- EU passports, man. But I'm willing to bet they're not crazy about it. So they can't give the UK a nice pat on the back and an amicable divorce, because that would give voters in other countries ideas. And they can't be having that.

The bargaining chip for the UK should have been the divorce bill. The EU wants something like 39 billion pounds and any British Government coming to the table without a flaming bag of dog shit in its hand should have had the spine to say that not one pence would be paid until they get a deal they can live with.

So what now? Damned if I know. It's the greatest train wreck on planet Earth at the moment. Assuming Theresa May hasn't used up her nine lives by this point, I think she survives- if for no other reason than I don't think the Tories like Boris Johnson all that much and they probably like the thought of Jacob Reese-Mogg even less (I mean, I wasn't around when Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister. It might be a novel experience to see what Reese-Mogg would be like in 10 Downing Street. Like Back To The Future cosplay gone awry.) The irony of ironies of course is that Scotland is watching carefully. Northern Ireland doesn't seem thrilled the prospect of being a doorstop or a backstop  or whatever the hell they're supposed to be. After staving off a vote on Scottish independence, a botched Brexit could lead to just that- with a bonus possibility of a united Ireland to boot.

How's that for a Brexit no one saw coming?

*'Taking Back Control' sounds an awful lot like 'Make America Great Again' or that probably forgotten Howard Dean slogan from '04: 'We're Going To Take Our Country Back.' The latter always perplexed me a bit. I mean, where did America go? Did it move in with Mom? Was there a custody battle of some kind?

**UKIP is a ridiculous name for a political party. It makes me think of fish. "You kip?" "Yes, please, but only on toast." "You kip if you want too, this fish is not for turning. Unless it's done on that side and you need to add some lemon."

***Do Tory Prime Ministers not read history anymore? Edward Heath called a snap election back in the 70s by asking the somewhat unfortunate question, 'Who Governs Britain?' The voters, somewhat surprised by the question decided that whomever it was going to be, it wasn't going to be Edward Heath anymore.

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