Brexi­teers are an­gry with rea­li­ty

Au Royaume-Uni, les par­ti­sans d’un Brexit dur en guerre contre The­re­sa May.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire -

Qu’ont en com­mun les dé­pu­tés conser­va­teurs bri­tan­niques Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, Boris John­son et Da­vid Da­vis ? Ces eu­ros­cep­tiques convain­cus sont par­ti­sans d’un Brexit dur et sont bien dé­ci­dés, avec une pe­tite fac­tion d’élus conser­va­teurs, à faire échouer le pro­jet por­té par leur pre­mier mi­nistre The­re­sa May... Un jour­na­liste bri­tan­nique nous pré­sente, non sans hu­mour, ces « Brexi­ters » qui dé­fendent un Brexit sans ac­cord com­mer­cial.

The Brexi­teers have be­come the an­gry bri­gade of Bri­tish po­li­tics. Boris John­son has ac­cu­sed The­re­sa May of wrap­ping a suicide vest around Britain. Ja­cob Rees-Mogg has ac­cu­sed her of being “co­wed” by the Eu­ro­pean Union. And se­ve­ral To­ry MPs have used ano­ny­mous brie­fings to sa­vage her in the press. 2. The ob­vious rea­son for this is that Brexi­teers think that Mrs May is wre­cking a pro­ject that has consu­med much of their lives. They are fu­rious that she bot­ched the elec­tion of 2017 with a woo­den cam­pai­gn and a shod­dy ma­ni­fes­to. This has wea­ke­ned the go­vern­ment’s hand in dea­ling not on­ly with re­cal­ci­trant Re­mai­ners but al­so with cun­ning Eu­ro­peans who are de­ter­mi­ned to ex­ploit any si­gn of Bri­tish weak­ness. They are equal­ly cross that she is be­traying what they consi­der to be the glo­rious prin­ciples of Lan­cas­ter House, the speech in which she laid down va­rious “red lines” about lea­ving the Eu­ro­pean Union.

THE REA­LI­TY PRINCIPLE

3. There is al­so a dee­per rea­son why Brexi­teers are so an­gry. Mrs May re­pre­sents the rea­li­ty principle in a po­li­ti­cal world do­mi­na­ted by fan­ta­sy and wish-ful­filment. She didn’t fluff last year’s elec­tion on­ly be­cause of a woo­den cam­pai­gn and a bot­ched ma­ni­fes­to. She al­so fluf­fed it be­cause a more or less equal­ly di­vi­ded na­tion was not willing to give her carte blanche to pur­sue a hard Brexit.

4. She didn’t blur the red lines of Lan­cas­ter House just be­cause she was ma­ni­pu­la­ted and de­cei­ved. She blur­red them be­cause she is trying to avoid ter­rible ha­zards such as a break­down of trade with the EU or the im­po­si­tion of a hard bor­der in Ire­land. Brexi­teers are To­ries who are fu­rious that rea­li­ty has pro­ved to be more stub­born than they ima­gi­ned.

A BUREAUCRATIC EXERCISE

5. They be­lie­ved that lea­ving the Eu­ro­pean Union would be a cake walk. Liam Fox pro­noun­ced that “the free-trade agree­ment that we will have to do with the EU should be one of the ea­siest in hu­man his­to­ry.” In fact, lea­ving the EU is li­ke­ly to be one of the har­dest bureaucratic exer­cises in post-war his­to­ry. That is not just be­cause the EU is de­ter­mi­ned to make it dif­fi­cult (though it is), but be­cause

un­ra­vel­ling 45 years’ worth of tra­ding re­gu­la­tions is in­evi­ta­bly com­pli­ca­ted and ti­me­con­su­ming.

6. The Brexi­teers be­lie­ved that Britain would be able to have all the be­ne­fits of the single market while al­so stri­king trade deals with the rest of the world—that “there will be no down­side to Brexit, on­ly a consi­de­rable up­side,” as Da­vid Da­vis said, or that Britain would be able to have its cake and eat it, as Mr John­son pro­noun­ced in a ph­rase that should be car­ved on his tombs­tone.

A STRONG E.U.

7. But lea­ving the EU in­evi­ta­bly in­volves dif­fi­cult trade-offs. Britain has to choose bet­ween main­tai­ning open ac­cess to the EU’s single market (which means com­plying with its rules) or freeing it­self to make independent trade deals with the rest of the world (which means lo­sing au­to­ma­tic ac­cess to the EU’s market). It may yet have to make an even har­der trade-off within its own bor­ders: trea­ting Nor­thern Ire­land dif­fe­rent­ly from the rest of the UK, which would even­tual­ly tie the pro­vince more clo­se­ly to the Re­pu­blic of Ire­land, or ac­cep­ting a soft Brexit.

8. The Brexi­teers fur­ther be­lie­ved that the EU would prove to be a pu­sho­ver. Du­ring the re­fe­ren­dum cam­pai­gn, Mi­chael Gove pro­mi­sed that “the day af­ter we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.” In fact, the EU not on­ly has a lot more cards in its pack than Britain—27 mem­ber states, in­clu­ding aces such as France and Ger­ma­ny. It al­so has more ex­pe­rience, as a re­gu­la­to­ry su­per­po­wer that is used to dea­ling with other su­per­po­wers such as Chi­na and Ame­ri­ca.

9. Some Brexi­teers al­so thought that Britain would be the prae­to­rian guard of a re­vo­lu­tion against an os­si­fied glo­bal or­der, re­pre­sen­ted by Brus­sels. In fact, the EU has ar­gua­bly been streng­the­ned ra­ther than wea­ke­ned by Britain’s im­mi­nent de­par­ture, while pro-Eu­ro­pea­nism has gone from being an exo­tic taste in Britain to a real force. And Britain’s fel­low re­bels against the old world or­der consist of such du­bious fi­gures as Mat­teo Sal­vi­ni and Do­nald Trump.

10. There is an ele­ment of va­ni­ty in this. Ma­ny Brexi­teers spent de­cades in the wil­der­ness, being dis­mis­sed as “swi­vel-eyed loons” by se­nior To­ries. They thought that the re­fe­ren­dum re­sult would fi­nal­ly turn them in­to pro­phets and he­roes. But it is in­crea­sin­gly loo­king as if the es­ta­blish­ment types got it right. Pre­pa­ra­tions for a no-deal Brexit are be­co­ming in­crea­sin­gly omi­nous, as the go­vern­ment pre­pares to char­ter contai­ner ships to import food and drugs, and turn a Kent mo­tor­way in­to a giant lor­ry park. Mrs May is no one’s mo­del of a per­fect prime mi­nis­ter. But it is to her cre­dit that she has tried hard to grapple with a fien­di­sh­ly dif­fi­cult pro­blem.

The Brexi­teers fur­ther be­lie­ved that the EU would prove to be a pu­sho­ver.

(James McCau­ley/REX/Shut­ter­stock/SIPA) (SIPA) (Di­nen­dra Ha­ria/REX/Shut­ter­stock/SIPA)

Ja­cob Rees-Mogg. Boris John­son. Mi­chael Gove.

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