What is this monster that started chewing up the British psyche some time ago that no politician can give a workable view of, no journalist or broadcaster can make sense of and that is now eating British jobs and equilibrium? How do we pin it down? Why is it so divisive? Why can’t the best minds in the country get it done (I’m not necessarily talking politicians here)? How far down the path of disunion and animosity do we have to go before our government can agree what to do?
These are a few of the questions that remain unanswered for me so I thought I’d try and work through them. Let’s be clear, I’m no expert. I am a wife and mother, my husband and I run our own business, we are not politically active in terms of party membership or marches but always vote. And we always try to do what we believe is best.
In the run up to the referendum, I had sleepless nights worrying about which way to vote. My problem has always been I can see both sides of an argument; I tend to think of everything in life as a bell curve. There’ll always be people at each extreme but the majority of people will sit in the moderate middle, with leanings either way which may change depending on the situation.
As far as Brexit was concerned, I was sitting right at the top of the bell curve, in a little cart on wheels with no brake, so finely balanced that one fine breath either way would push me over to that side. But that breath never came – for each reason to stay that was put forward an equally compelling reason to leave was made. Both sides spoke a lot of hot air. The truth was we couldn’t know what would happen if we left, and we didn’t know what would happen if we stayed. Buses and slogans were red herrings as much as safety and stability was guaranteed as members; none of it had the weight of authority or the ring of truth.
So is it any surprise we still can’t define Brexit? Attempting to do so starts off simply – you’re either in or you’re out and the British public voted out. So we leave. How do we leave? Also simple. We give notice, negotiate a deal and depart at a mutually agreed time.
What relationship do we have once we part? This is where we could be accused of wanting to have our cake and eat it. No sensible person thinks we are going to get all the benefits of membership with none of the costs or ties. Nah. Not gonna happen.
Theresa May’s original deal seemed to be a sensible arrangement. Not the best. Not ideal. A bit all things to all (wo)men. But given all the circumstances, sensible. Which may be why she keeps flogging her dead horse hoping it will rise and continue to plough a way through this mess but it won’t and, by the sounds of it, she’ll soon be joining her horse on the ground. Why? Because the people at either end of the bell curve will always vote it down. It goes too far for one side, not far enough for the other. ‘No one’ wants to be half in, half out. How do they know? To be honest, ‘out’ sounds a bit scary, ‘in’ was a pain in the backside at times, great at others, so why not half in half out?
So who will get to define it? Who will ‘win’? Not the British people, that’s for sure. We’re haemorrhaging jobs and businesses, not all of which can be pinned on Brexit, but nor is it happening in a vacuum. The answer is somewhere in between – that damned bell curve again.
This is the bit that sticks in the craw, that makes me feel angry and possibly even motivated to get out my daughter’s paints and nail a placard to a stick: the politicians in charge, those elected to sort this out, are using Brexit to advance their own agendas.
With the possible exception of Theresa, who seems like an earnest sort believing herself to be doing the right thing even if deluded (but not in a messianic Tony Blair style), everyone else is in it for themselves. Although Theresa did get her premiership out of it so maybe she’s just as bad.
Low points have included Corbyn’s assertion Labour are not going to deliver a Tory Brexit, the blatant self-interestedness of all the Tory leadership candidates surpassed by the master of them all, Boris Johnson, and the continued insistence by all sides on taking sides. If there’s one thing the vote proved, it’s this is not an issue that can be solved along Party lines.
I get that we have an adversarial style of parliament with each side battling the other, largely to ensure we stay in the middle of the curve, but unique situations call for creative thinking and a coming together of ideas and solutions. Shouting “I’m right, you’re wrong” for two years achieves nothing.
What would I like to see happen? I’d like a cross-party, cross-country, cross-gender, cross-social-class group of theorists and pragmatists, economists, sociologists, and a psychiatrist or two to calm down all the excessive tub-thumping, to work together on this, together with a group of representatives from across Europe with the single goal of extracting Britain from the EU in a dignified manner which leaves all parties free to trade with each other, still respecting each other and with honourable future intent. Give them 3 months to sort it; sit them in a room and lock the door if we have to but don’t let them out until it’s done. In fact, I’d like this to have happened 3 years ago before our livelihoods were in jeopardy, we were divided as a nation and we understood the utter contempt we are held in by the likes of Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker.
What do I think will happen? Tory in-fighting will finish Theresa May’s deal and her career as PM. The Tories will sink to greater depths by electing a buffoon with a track-record in lying and a narcissistic God complex. Corbyn will sit on the side-lines doing nothing because he thinks he will swoop to victory at the inevitable general election. The SNP will use it as an opportunity to create more division with the aim of breaking up the United Kingdom. Britain will crash out without a deal and suffer a prolonged period of recession greater than that after the crash of 2008. Whether we then prosper outside the EU and trade profitably across the world I cannot say but I know it won’t be soon.
Hard times are ahead, one way or another. And the real gut-punch?
It didn’t need to be this way.