Brexit is getting worse and not better. The longer we delay in either doing it or canceling it, the angrier everyone gets. The indecision that has gripped parliament is causing tensions to rise. At this point, having an election or another referendum will only make people madder as they are both different forms of Parliament not making a decision and opting for further delays.
Brexit has broken our politics because it has created a problem that cannot be resolved as no option commands popular support. The parties are split on Brexit; it cuts across the traditional left/right divide. This new political axis combined with the old is tearing out politics apart.
Parliament refuses to pass Theresa May’s Brexit deal and has instead been holding a series of indicative votes on what they want instead. Although, none of these are supported by a majority of MPs. Both a customs union and a second referendum came close to passing, but not close enough to be the unambiguous will of the house.
No one can agree on what Brexit should be, which is the essence of Brexit itself. It’s not one thing, but a collection of loose ideas, values, aspirations and fears that have merged into a single political project. Nothing tangible can satisfy these feelings. The debate we are currently having, about what real-world form the bundle of dissatisfactions that are Brexit should take, is one that we should have had during the referendum or immediately afterward. We have left this terrifyingly late.
There is no consensus in Parliament because there is no consensus in the country. There is no majority in Parliament for what the majority of the people in the country will hate, which is currently everything. Everyone is waiting for some group to jump first in some direction, be it the DUP, ERG, Labour or Tory Remainers, and no one is willing to take the damage of sticking their neck out first. So it looks like everyone is going to stay hunkered down in their fox-holes until we crash out of the EU without a deal.
As no one is willing to compromise, delay is the only viable option. Although the continual delay is only making everyone angrier. We cannot escape from this cycle of delay and rising exasperation without a viable solution, which is the one thing we don’t have.
The more time goes by, the more I am convinced that Brexit is something that needs to be stopped. It will do huge economic and culture damage to our country, which will be felt by the poorest hardest. Even with May’s deal, that is a lot worse than the deal Britain has as an EU member. The left must oppose the regressive, nationalistic, anti-immigration, hyper-neoliberal Tory Brexit that the Boris Johnson or any other of May’s likely successors will visit upon the country.
At the same time, I am worried about how angry people could get if Brexit is canceled (or even if a second referendum is held). On 29th of March, the supposed Brexit day, the atmosphere in Westminster took on a new, frightening character. This was not a few old people with “Leave Means Leave” signs in Parliament Square. This was Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage speaking, people drinking and marching wearing St George’s crosses, journalists being verbally abused and fights with the police being started. This was angrier, nastier and more energetic than anything we had seen before and it’s a taste of what’s to come.
I find myself with unhelpful opinions. I have lots of detailed criticisms of the mistakes that got us into this mess - such as no Brexit white paper, the media not adequately scrutinizing Leave’s claims, a social media Wild West, dodgy campaign money sloshing about and no ownership of the outcome – all of which would be helpful if I could just find my time machine.
I think that we should have some kind of public vote if the deadlock in Parliament isn’t resolved soon. However, I must highlight that I disagree with, and am not associated in any way with, those who think that Remain could easily win a second vote or that revoking Article 50 would be universally welcomed. Anyone who believes that is crushingly naive.
Farage and Robinson are already whipping people up. It will get a lot worse if their message of Brexit betrayal is given legitimacy by the right leaning press or bunch of self-serving jingoistic clowns that are the Brexit wing of the Tory Party. This could get very ugly indeed.
It won’t be white, craft beer drinking, liberal, Remainers in Dulwich whose doors are kicked down by the Brexit mob. It will be poor people of colour in forgotten corners of the country, in small towns most people don’t know the names of. It’s these peoples’ lives we gamble with if we roll the dice on a second referendum. That’s if Remain wins that vote. Imagine the state of British politics if Leave wins for a second time.
My lack of useful suggestions mirrors all politicians’ lack of solutions. We are stuck and I don’t see a way out. Delay and indecision are making things worse. Now there is talk of holding EU elections, which may be the flare that the “Brexit is being stolen by the establishment” mob needs to really get going. If these elections return a horrendous group of right-wing, pro-Brexit reactionaries then this will demonstrate how bad a public vote could be. Either a second referendum or general election. However, a set of disastrous EU election results may be the catalyst Parliament needs to stop delaying and to do something, even if that something is putting this back to the people. I guess if we’re going to tear ourselves apart over Brexit we should get on with it.
Until Parliament makes a decision there will be delay followed by further delay, which will make everyone angrier. Brexit has already broken out politics to the point where it cannot function. That doesn’t mean that things can’t get much worse.