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30 December 2018
Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus
Horace, Ars Poetica, line 139
“She’s all hat and no cattle” (Texan translation)
In a series of blogposts – for example, Bad Losers and Victory for the People, Defeat for the Ruling Class – Antigone1984 has made its position crystal-clear: as democrats, we are in favour of respecting the decision taken by the British people in the referendum of 23 June 2016 in favour of Britain’s leaving the EU.
Unsuprisingly, since that happy outcome, the ruling class – the UK government, the political class, big business and the elitist media – has fought back fanatically, tooth-and-nail, to undermine systematically the democratically expressed wishes of the British people.
Leading the fightback has been the reactionary Tory Government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Knowing that time was of the essence, for about year after the June 2016 referendum her government sat on their hands and did diddly-squat.
Then, with time running out, they fixed a date for Britain to leave the European Union – 29 March 2019 – that would by no measure allow enough time to negotiate the extrication of Britain from 45 years of legal and bureaucratic enmeshment with the embryonic EU superstate.
Knowing from the outset that it would be impossible to conclude the negotiations within this timescale, PM May then produced a rabbit out of the hat: she invented out of thin air an additional layer of complexity of which the referendum had said nothing: there would be a transitional period between Britain “leaving” the EU on 29 March 2019 and a second arbitrary date of 31 December 2020. During that “transitional”period of nearly two years, Britons were told, they would in practice notice very little difference between EU-UK relations then and now. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. However, amazingly, it didn’t end there. By agreement with the EU, the UK has secured the possibility of yet a second “transition” period, of as yet undetermined duration, to follow the ending of the first “transition” period on 31 December 2020.
This is what the UK Government calls “leaving the EU”!
PM May is clearly following the machiavellian advice of Tancredi in the 1958 novel “The Leopard” by Prince Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa : “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi.” (“If we want everything to stay as it is, then everything will have to change.” That is to say, “everything will have to appear to change.”)
The Tory Party lead by Theresa May is avowedly the political wing of big business. Yet since the result of the referendum of 23 June 2016 became known the morning after, big business, needing to take long-term decisions as regards trade, services and investment, has, quite reasonably, been clamouring for clarity as to what precisely was going to happen to Britain’s international economic relations after Brexit.
They have received the dustiest of dusty answers from their political partner: “Wait and see!” So much for PM May’s concern for the pressing concerns of her party’s economic allies.
It was less than two years before the March 2019 deadline that the government buckled down to the monumental task of negotiating the unravelling of 45 years of Britain’s legal and bureaucratic entanglement with the European Union.
The result – the Withdrawal Agreement on the transition period concluded this autumn between Britain and the European Commission and approved on 25 November by the European Council – is a botched deal that would transform Britain from being a provincial member state of the EU into an EU vassal state – and that for an indeterminate period.
Incredibly, the “deal” involves Britain remaining within the EU Customs Union and the Internal Market – the essence of the European Union – for a so-called “transitional period” lasting from 29 March 2019 till 31 December 2020. However, this period may be extended indefinitely for years by agreement with the parties. During the transition, however long it lasts, Britain will continue to pay its gigantic annual subscription to the EU as if it were still a member state. However, unlike a member state it will have no say in decisions taken by the remaining 27 EU member states. Nor will it have any representatives in the European Parliament.
This is the “deal” that UK Prime Minister Theresa May shamelessly describes as delivering the Brexit that the people of Britain voted for in the referendum.
[Those who voted to leave the EU we call Leavites or Brexiteers (a term derived from Brexit – Britain’s Exit from the EU). Those who voted to stay we call Remainers or, more bluntly, “Remoaners”.]
This is a copy of the text of the referendum ballot on which the British electorate was asked to vote on 23 June 2016:
“Vote only once by putting a cross X in the box next to
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the
European Union or leave the European Union?
Remain a member of the European Union [box]
Leave the European Union [box]”
Voters were asked to mark with a single X the remain or leave box.
It is hardly possible to imagine a more straightforward question.
The result, too, was crystal-clear.
Of the British people who took part in the ballot, 51.9 % voted to leave the European Union as against 48.1 % who voted to remain. The turn-out was a substantial 71.8 % of the electorate.
It is of the utmost importance to note the exact wording of the referendum. There are no ifs or buts. The winning majority of voters opted to leave the European Union. They did not vote to remain organically attached to it by the umbilical cord of the EU’s Customs Union and Internal Market and still subject to the supreme legal authority of the EU’s Court of Justice. Even less did they vote to pay ginormous annual sums into the coffers of the EU – and that without having any say in decisions affecting Britain that are taken by the remaining 27 EU member states. On the contrary, the voters of Britain voted unambiguously by a clear majority to LEAVE THE EUROPEAN UNION.
And yet the UK Prime Minister Theresa May has the bare-faced sass to describe her “deal” – remaining for an indefinite transition period within the core EU structures of the Customs Union and the Internal Market, continuing to pay pharaonic quantities of tribute to the EU treasury whilst at the same time relinquishing Britain’s representation in the European Parliament and in the European Council – as delivering the Brexit that the people of Britain voted for in the referendum!
Which part of “LEAVE” does the Prime Minister not understand?
The Prime Minister’s Brexit is BINO – Brexit in Name Only.
And the reason for this could not be more obvious.
The two architects of the “deal” – Theresa May and her Chancellor (Finance Minister) the charisma-free Philip Hammond – are both remainiacs who voted in the referendum that Britain should stay inside the European Union.
That says it all.
What we have now is the logical result of putting Remainers – May and Hammond – in control of the Brexit negotiations. We have engaged arsonists to put out the fire. They have done their damnedest to sabotage the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016.
This view is confirmed by UK Tory Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group. In a report for “Guardian Live” on 20 November 2018, he is quoted as saying that the UK Government was determined not to deliver a meaningful Brexit: “What we are seeing from this Government is a deliberate decision not to deliver a proper Brexit. We have a Government led by Remainers who want to keep us tied into the EU as tightly as possible.”
Hats off to the Remain Camp!
How different was the stance that May adopted in the heady months that followed the referendum! Setting out the backstory in the Daily Telegraph on 7 December 2018, another Tory MP, Ben Bradley, pointed out that, making a keynote speech at Lancaster House in London on 17 January 2017, Theresa May said she would seek to negotiate “a bold and ambitious free trade deal” with Europe that would also give Britain the ability to fraternise around the world [ie conclude trade deals with non-EU states].
According to Bradley, May “was aiming to take back control of our money, borders and laws. These, she said quite rightly, were at the heart of the reasons why people voted to leave. She said that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal‘ and that if the EU would not give us something that worked for the United Kingdom, then we could walk away and succeed on our own merits.”
Alas it was not to be.
Bradley continues: “It is hard, looking back, to understand how it can have gone so wrong since then, and that from those bright and optimistic beginnings, the Government now presents us with this choice: vote for mediocrity or risk chaos.”
By voting to leave the EU in the referendum, he maintains, voters had shown that they were eager to “take back control of their destiny”.
“This vote for change is what the Government has misunderstood. You cannot deliver on it by seeking to replicate as much of the status quo as possible. You cannot deliver an outcome that meets the ‘spirit’ of the referendum result if we remain tied, perhaps indefinitely, to the institution that we promised to leave.”
Calling for a free trade arrangement, such as that between the EU and Canada, that does not tie Britain into all the regulatory and financial obligations in the Prime Minister’s “broken proposal”, Bradley recommends that the UK have the confidence to strike out on its own.
“Such a decision would restore the brittle faith in democracy in communities like mine around the UK, ” according to Bradley, who is Member of Parliament for Mansfield, a market town in Nottinghamshire far from the madding crowd of self-serving anti-democratic EU apologists in London. “It would prove that they have a voice and that when they vote for change, the establishment will not block or ignore them.”
Needless to say, Antigone1984, which was a dyed-in-the-wool champion of Brexit for decades before the 2016 referendum, does not support May’s so-called deal.
In fact, mirabile dictu, we go so far as to agree with those members of the Remain camp who maintain that it would be better to stay within the EU than leave under Theresa May’s fake prospectus.
You would think that things could not get much worse. In fact, they have.
Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.
English nursery rhyme
Earlier on in the Brexit saga the House of Commons forced an unwilling Prime Minister Theresa May to give Members of Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the final agreement reached between the EU and the UK.
To fulfil this obligation, the Government programmed five days of debate in the House of Commons in early December 2018 followed by the “meaningful” vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 11 December.
However, while graciously agreeing to allow the elected Members of Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the proposed deal, this tricky-dicky Government then refused to allow the Commons to see the full legal advice upon which its decision to sign the agreement was based.
Fortunately, the Commons was having none of this. Not unreasonably, it took the view that the Government’s concealment from Parliament of this crucial opinion from Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox, the Government’s chief legal officer, constituted contempt of Parliament and, on 4 December, the first day of the parliamentary debate, voted to compel the Government to publish Cox’s advice.
Not only that, but it also voted to compel the government to give Parliament a say in any subsequent Brexit-related agreement should the Commons reject the Withdrawal Agreement in the meaningful vote on 11 December. Naturally, this was an appalling prospect so far as the government was concerned because it meant that, should the vote go against it, the Government would no longer have a free hand: in any subsequent negotiations its scope for manoeuvre would be curtailed as a result of interference from the elected Members of Parliament. Imagine!
Since as far back as the referendum on 23 June 2016, it was uncertain as to whether Parliament would vote to leave the EU – in accordance with the will of the people as expressed in the referendum – or to stay inside it regardless of how people had voted.
Since the details of the Withdrawal Agreement became known and, in particular, since the publication of the Attorney-General’s advice, which suggested that the agreement might keep the UK indefinitely subject to EU regulations, parliamentary sentiment has hardened against the deal on the grounds that it constitutes a comprehensive cave-in to the EU in exchange for sweet-fanny-adams.
By the final day of the Parliamentary debate on Monday 10 December, it became clear beyond doubt that the deal would receive a massive thumbs-down the next day in the “meaningful” vote in Parliament. At the eleventh hour, frit and panicking, General Theresa May – “she who can do no wrong” – marched her troops down again. At the eleventh hour Tuesday’s vote was put off to the Greek Kalends.
So that was the vote that wasn’t.
Naturally, there was uproar in Parliament. MPs had wasted five days debating for nothing. The Government had pulled the vote at the last minute to save its skin. The Mother of Parliaments had been dissed. Most thought that the vote should be reinstated lickety-split.
Well, naturally, it wasn’t. Some days later the Government let it be known that the postponed vote would not take place till the week beginning 14 January more than a month after the vote had been postponed on 11 December. This in a context where Britain is slated to leave the European Union regardless – with a deal or without one – on 29 March 2019. That leaves only two and half months between the rescheduled vote and the fixed date for Britain’s departure from the EU.
The vote has now been rescheduled for 15 January – although clearly one cannot now trust any such information from a government capable of upsetting the apple cart and making panicky changes at any moment.
The question naturally arises: given that there is not much on the parliamentary agenda at this time of year and certainly nothing as important as the decision to sever 45 years of close political, economic, legal and cultural links with the European project for a United States of Europe, why is the Government now dragging its feet and refusing to resubmit its Withdrawal Agreement to the vote immediately?
One can only speculate. However, dirty tricks are to be expected.
The following is more than likely:
- The month-long delay will allow ample time for government lackeys, not least party whips, using bribes and threats to put pressure on individual MPs to accept the deal. They are doing precisely this as we write these lines.
- Government envoys, programmed by a panicking Theresa May, will spend the month scuttling back and forth between London and Brussels in the hope that yet more bowing, scraping and grovelling will soften the hearts of EU officials and persuade them to throw some crumbs of comfort into the UK begging bowl in the form of legally valueless concessions couched in the creatively ambiguous language of which the European Union is proud.
- The main purpose of the delay, however, is to play for time. Theresa May is running down the clock. Time is her trump card. Come the week beginning 14 January 2019, she can tell MPs that either they accept her agreement or Britain will be ejected from the EU on 29 March 2019 without any agreement. Given the 18 months it has taken to get this far, two and a half months will hardly suffice to renegotiate a new agreement with the EU from scratch. But it is not only in respect of relations with the EU that an abyss would open up. So far as we know, virtually no trade agreements have been negotiated between Britain and the rest of the world outside the EU. Expect Prime Minister May to play the time card hard. It’s my deal or nothing, she will tell MPs. Fall into line or your country will go down the Swanee.
If MPs back down and accept the deal, Mrs May will have achieved her original object: BINO (Brexit in Name Only). Since becoming Prime Minister shortly after the referendum, she has worked ruthlessly, losing Brexit secretary after Brexit secretary in the process, to preserve in reality, if not in name, the status quo between Britain and the EU. We shall be leaving the EU while remaining in it at the same time. May has pig-headedly refused to countenance any alternative (such as the conclusion of bilateral agreements with third countries, including the EU, on World Trade Organisation terms). Maybe, in some deranged way, she believes that she has squared the circle – that her agreement is giving what they want to both Leavites and Remainers.
Good luck with that one, Theresa!
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
- Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
- Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
- The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
- Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- Ladder (21 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
- Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.