It’s all over bar the shouting: that well-known expression suggests everything’s done and dusted, whatever will happen will happen, and anything else is mere noise. Does that describe the current situation around Theresa May’s Brexit deal? After all, it’s on the table and the EU likes it: and you might argue that, in the Mother of Parliaments, all we’re hearing is a lot of shouting from MPs, and not only Tories.
But it’s not only shouting. In his open letter to Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, former journal editor Neil Fowler encapsulates better than I can how things stand currently over Brexit and why MPs flouncing out are failing in their duty to get the job done in Westminster.
Astonishingly, uniquely, I find myself agreeing with recent Daily Mail headlines. Friday’s (pictured) described the Tory MPs jumping ship as “peacocking saboteurs”: it was spot-on.
The 2016 “simple” in/out referendum wasn’t so much simple as simplistic. Those voting Remain, to be fair, knew what the status quo involved, including our long frustration with the bureaucratic, undemocratic practices and general inefficiency of the EU: we knew reform was needed.
For many Leave voters it was a matter of principle and the result of much thought. But, while they may have possessed a clear vision of wherethey wanted Brexit to take us, they cannot have known how we would get there.
I fear sincere Leave voters – I exclude the wreckers who cynically concocted a pack of lies promising a golden UK future outside Europe – underestimated from the start the realities of navigating a smooth exit from the EU: international treaties require negotiation.
I’m no fan of the current government, nor of our Prime Minister. But neither she nor her hard-working negotiating team of civil servants deserve accusations of being closet Remainers deliberately seeking to stymie the process. Indeed, if anything progress was most hampered by the clumsy and inadequate performance of David Davis as Brexit secretary: aggressive, ill-prepared and apparently convinced that that, somehow, the bulldog spirit (hilariously lampooned by BBC R4’s Dead Ringers) would force Johnny Foreigner to climb down and concede everything he demanded.
This is where I think we are now.
- I don’t we should have held a referendum, and I dislike the outcome. But the country narrowly voted to leave the EU, and must now do so. But not on suicidal, self-destructive terms, nor in an absurd state of blind optimism that, after maybe a tough few years, things will be wonderful.
- A People’s Vote will merely deepen the divisions opening up in our nation. You can’t keep holding votes until you get the answer that you/we/someone wants.
- A no-deal Brexit would be deeply damaging to the UK economy: such a self-inflicted wound should not be considered for a moment.
- Hard Brexiters’ apparent belief that “tough” negotiation is all about bullying, blustering and demanding without compromise or give-and-take is both naive and arrogant.
- There’s a deal on the table, which we may be able to tweak it a little. It must be made to work, because all other routes willfully court disaster.
It’s Parliament’s job to make it work: that’s what we elect MPs to Westminster to do. They must work together to achieve it. To do otherwise is to abdicate their responsibility, the responsibility we give them and pay them for. MPs who resign from government shouldn’t just resign the post: they should leave Parliament. But they won’t, of course. Willfully they persist in widening, not healing, division.
According to tradition, when the Vatican was electing a new Pope and cardinals squabbled, they were locked in the Sistine Chapel without food. Apparently that hastened a decision. We can’t adopt that tactic, alas. So instead I suggest that everyMP who blocks, flounces out or in any way declines to be part of a compromise solution to Brexit should be named: then, at the next election, we voters should abandon tribal party loyalties and vote out any representative who has failed their constituency in that way.
All over bar the shouting? If only. Shouting appears to be all these posturing windbags know.