Fake Brexit and frac­tured Bri­tain

Just Words...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - COMMENT - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

The ar­gu­ment seems to be that the Bri­tish peo­ple voted to leave the Euro­pean Union and there is no go­ing back be­cause that is how democ­racy works.

Some 17 mil­lion of the Bri­tish elec­torate voted to cut ties with Brus­sels and un­cou­ple it­self from the EU gravy train. End of story.

No­body is al­lowed to have a sec­ond chance at re­solv­ing this Brexit non­sense, oth­er­wise it would make a mock­ery of ref­er­en­dums as the peo­ple have spo­ken. This is the straight­bat de­fence of Theresa May’s with­drawal agree­ment.

But the Brex­i­teers ar­gue as if the 2016 vote was a land­slide of pub­lic dis­af­fec­tion with the EU. Some 51.9% (17.4 mil­lion) of the UK elec­torate voted Leave, but a solid 48.1% (16.1 mil­lion) voted Re­main and I’m sure the leavers didn’t en­vis­age the out­come the coun­try is now faced with.

North­ern Ire­land voted re­main, but could be left iso­lated in EU limbo to avoid a hard bor­der ap­pear­ing with the Repub­lic of Ire­land – there’s a back­stop to en­sure the hinges won’t come off but there is no sat­is­fac­tory out­come.

An­other part of the United King­dom that is look­ing to break­away is Scot­land which also voted to re­main and wants to stay within the Euro­pean fam­ily rather than the Bri­tish Isles.

There ap­pear to be sev­eral bad op­tions open to the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment with no clear Yel­low Brick Road lead­ing out of EU mem­ber­ship.

Amid the di­vi­sive pol­i­tics of EU dis­en­gage­ment – one thing is abun­dantly clear, there won’t ac­tu­ally be a clean Brexit – it will be a kind of muted Brexit where Bri­tain is in a cus­toms ar­range­ment with Europe and bound by its reg­u­la­tions but have no real voice.

There was also the bizarre po­si­tion of the gov­ern­ment this week which ad­mit­ted that any Brexit deal would be worse than stay­ing in the 28-mem­ber bloc, but peo­ple had to swal­low be­ing poorer off as there was no other al­ter­na­tive.

Theresa May is adamant she got the best deal she could from her un­der­stand­ing Euro­pean part­ners – who will in­evitably play hard­ball over the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship.

Bri­tain could avoid a painful divorce if it de­cided to fall in love with Europe again, but mar­riage coun­selling has been a vic­tim of the hos­tile de­bate.

The Bri­tish PM is trav­el­ling the coun­try to per­suade peo­ple that her deal keeps the UK closer to Europe – which the ma­jor­ity did not vote for – there is no al­ter­na­tive Plan B – which the silent ma­jor­ity is cry­ing out for and a no deal is not on the ta­ble – an op­tion cru­saders in her party are striv­ing for.

Es­sen­tially, May is a re­mainer on a mis­sion to con­vince the elec­torate that her mid­dle way is the best of a bad lot and ev­ery­one should just knuckle down and get aboard the Brexit bus with des­ti­na­tion un­known.

Adding more lay­ers of con­fu­sion to the is­sue is May spoil­ing for a fight in the TV stu­dio with leader of the Op­po­si­tion Jeremy Cor­byn.

She wants to go toe-to-toe with the Labour leader to prove her case, although Jeremy isn’t in­ter­ested in Brexit, he just wants to trig­ger a gen­eral elec­tion and get into power.

Bizarrely, May wants to ap­peal to an au­di­ence that has no say in the mat­ter as the deal is up for a vote in par­lia­ment on De­cem­ber 11.

More­over, she will only take part in a TV de­bate against Cor­byn, not any hard Brex­iter, such as Boris John­son, or any cam­paigner for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, say­ing it is no longer about a leave vs. re­main ar­gu­ment. Crit­ics ar­gue the need for a wide spec­trum of views in the de­bate, not two peo­ple who nei­ther have strong views on Brexit nor want a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment says it doesn’t want to be­tray the peo­ple who voted for Brexit – that horse has bolted.

And why are 16 mil­lion peo­ple who voted the other way ir­rel­e­vant to the ar­gu­ment? There is ev­i­dence to sug­gest their num­ber has grown since 2016.

May says her form of Brexit is in the na­tional in­ter­est and it pro­tects jobs and liveli­hoods, but ar­guably stay­ing in the bloc would do the same job with­out leav­ing North­ern Ire­land and Scot­land in the lurch.

She fa­mously said that “Brexit means Brexit” but no­body re­ally knows what it means any­more.

And if MPs in the House of Com­mons re­ject the agree­ment it could see the world’s fifth-largest econ­omy part­ing the bloc with­out a deal, or not leav­ing at all.

So much for a de­ci­sive ref­er­en­dum al­low­ing democ­racy to shine the way for­ward through peo­ple power.

Cypri­ots know only too well about the fall­out from fu­turechang­ing ref­er­en­dums and like the Brexit de­bate they may be called on to do it all again a sec­ond time around – ei­ther way there will be re­crim­i­na­tions. Democ­racy can suck some­times.

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