I won’t repeat the news. You can find out with a few quick Google searches which votes happened in the Commons this week. In a nutshell: we voted down May’s deal, again, with a similar margin; we voted to block a no deal Brexit happening at any time; we voted to (ask the EU to allow us to) delay Brexit.
We also voted strongly against a second referendum, which is a sad fact to my liberal, millennial ears. Jeremy Corbyn then fired the Labour party members who refused to abstain as instructed, and instead chose to vote (some for, some against) on the issue of a second referendum. Clearly, what we’re looking to do here is avoid making a decision.
Rather than grapple honestly and thoughtfully with whether or not to have a second referendum, the leader of the opposition instructed his party to abstain. Given that the bulk of support for a second referendum was likely to come from the Labour party, this is as good as voting no in practice. And given that the default for Brexit is leaving without a deal (in two weeks), not making a decision on what to do doesn’t go as far to shift the scale from no deal as people might think.
In life generally, I lose my patience quickly with people who refuse to make choices when they are fully aware of all the options. I understand that making tough decisions is hard, I really do. Most people do. But I pride myself on thinking things through carefully, and, after an adequate amount of soul searching, taking the plunge and making a choice. I don’t want to just glide through my life, letting the wind of time blow me around and then being surprised – or worse, dissatisfied – with where I end up.
Basic logic makes clear that there are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. This week, the government voted no to the only deal we have (with the EU making clear that there will be no further renegotiation) and voted no to no deal.
I mean, they basically voted no to Brexit. Saying that you want something to happen but rejecting any real attempts to enact that desire in practice is meaningless. Brexit is not theoretical. If it is going to happen, then how exactly we extricate ourselves from the tangle of laws, constitutions and trade agreements that make up the EU is of paramount importance. And if you can’t make Brexit work in practice, then on some level, you don’t actually want Brexit. Liking the idea of something and still wanting it in reality are two very different things.
I know this is all complicated because it isn’t one person’s indecision we’re battling against. It’s six hundred or so people with starkly different opinions, backgrounds and incentives. Getting things done in government does not mean everyone agreeing all the time. Even taking that into account, this is insane, and the fact that the only thing we want to do that gets us closer to resolving this problem is delaying making a decision is only more frustrating.
I don’t want to leave the EU in fourteen days with no deal. Delaying is preferable to being to thrown into the deep end without a life jacket. But I do want to make a decision (or rather, want the British government to make a decision) rather than endlessly delaying the process for fear of pissing people off.
Newsflash: everyone is pissed off already. Everyone is tired. Approximately 50% of the country is going to be unhappy either way – May should do what she thinks is going to benefit the UK long-term. Her political career is probably going to be toast after this debacle anyway; she’s basically only still in power because we all begrudgingly agree that it would be worse to have another Tory member take over now and spend time we don’t have getting up to speed.
I am so curious to know what Theresa May’s personal position on Brexit is. In 2016, she voted Remain in the referendum. She has said repeatedly throughout the negotiation process that leaving without a deal would be a disaster, a sentiment that many of her fellow party members disagree with. There was a clear point at which she supported the Remain campaign and even now still seems to hold a moderate view. If she’s going to descend into political obscurity as soon as this has been remotely resolved, however shambolically, why not make her final act in the spotlight one she truly believes in?
If May honestly believes that remaining in the EU is a better long-term decision for the UK, then it is baffling how stringently she’s arguing to leave, even after the whole government has voted against both a deal and a no deal exit strategy. Maybe I’m missing something crucial – and I know that I don’t spend my days surrounded by hard-core Brexiteers – but it seems like now would be the time to put your hands up and say “you guys seem to have rejected the only actual strategies we have for leaving the EU. Maybe it’s time to consider the other option – you know, the one 48% of UK voters wanted?”
Instead, she’s organised another vote on the same deal parliament voted on this week. Because she, like so many others, seem unable to face facts.
Maybe you’ve heard this all before. I’ve talked about Brexit so much at the moment, both at work and at home, that I often feel like I’m repeating myself. I don’t want to be that person, that normal UK citizen, who presumes that they understand the complexities of managing Brexit in Parliament better than the people who are there. But I do have eyes, I do read the news and, working in a financial institutional, am really quite clued in as to what’s going on in Westminster, as much as any average citizen can be. And I – along with hosts of other smart, politically conscious people – am baffled as to how this has been handled, from the moment the vote was called three years ago.
It’s so crazy and stupid and downright tedious at this point that it makes lots of us starting switching off. It is hard to stay interested and keep the momentum when every huge change fades into the background of constant uproar and tension. Adaptation is a powerful drug. Brexit carnage dominating the news is our new normal.
But this effect is insidious and it remains vital to stay interested. Political exhaustion plays right into the hands of those most invested in stripping the public of opportunities. If we all tire ourselves out, we’ll start accepting less and less in order to have the insane tedium be over. Maybe that’s why the PM keeps peddling the same deal over and over again, hoping that more and more people will reach breaking point and accept this crappy, second-rate option in order to just make it stop.
I am glad we will (hopefully) delay Brexit instead of leaving in two weeks with no deal and in utter disarray. But I am not glad that this charade will continue. It is time for someone to make a choice, do something bold, piss a few people off and save the UK from economic turmoil in the process.