Local resident and S&C contributor Ian Morris gives a tongue in cheek response to last week’s draft Brexit deal, and asks what it means for Britain, and our political discourse.
Last Thursday, I listened to the live feed from the Houses of Parliament, feeling strangely mesmerised and terrified in equal measure. I was reminded of the opening moments of Casualty when an extra makes an announcement like, ‘I’m just going to take this chainsaw for a walk via the local school.’
No good will come of this, I thought.
The PM said something like, ‘Well, here’s the deal. There’s some iffy bits in there and a slightly ugly ‘backstop’ thing on the Irish border – we hope never to have to use that. But ultimately, we’re out of the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy and the clutches of the European Court of Justice. It hasn’t been easy, folks, the EU were a touch awkward, but here it is.’
What followed was a series of accusations of the deal representing Mutually Assured Economic Destruction (M.A.E.D.)
Jeremy Corbyn kicked us off, telling the PM the deal was ‘botched’ as it failed the six tests set out by the Labour Party, and rounding off his critique with something like, ‘Reckon we should have a General Election and let us have a go at this Brexit malarky, eh?’
TM the PM was firm in her response, along the lines of ‘Try reading it again muttonhead, and no, there will not be a General Election’.
About 50 questions followed in quick succession, approximately half of which were variations on: ‘The deal stinks. We would be better off in. How about we go for another vote, and because most people think this option is an intolerable ball-ache, how about we call it the People’s Vote?’
Our weary leader bounced back the same answer on repeat: ‘The vote happened. No to a second referendum. It’s Deal or No Deal,’ as if channelling the spirit of the still-living Noel Edmonds, but the questions kept coming.
There followed an array of parochial observations like, ‘The deal has nothing in it for the seaweed knitters of the Isle of Arun, so I cannot possibly support it.’
And the final group in this Prime Ministerial Pile-On Party were the Brexiteers from within, led by their poster-boy – or, more accurately, artisan tapestry boy – Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said something like, ‘Whilst my honourable friend is a spiffing sort of lass, in this particular tureen of pan-European soup, she has given the morseliest portions to Johnny Foreigner and left us with the servants’ gravy and little else. Should I not now reach out to the Godknocker rudiment of the Old Spoonmasters Guild to disenfranchise her?’
While virtually no one understood the question, word soon spread that Rees-Mogg meant the deal was rubbish and he would be kicking off proceedings for a vote of no confidence.
A few brave souls stood up to defend the deal, but sounded mostly feeble or toadying, and after 3 hours or so, Mr Speaker finally decided to call it a day and let everyone retire to the pub.
At the end of it all, I was left incredulous. What no one had explained – or discussed – was what it all actually meant?
- Accept the deal, and Brexit under these terms.
- Reject the deal and crash out of the EU next March, known as hard Brexit,
- Remain in the EU.
After the debate, option 1 looked dead, with half the Tories in favour and everyone else concluding the draft deal was dreadful.
Option 2, remain in the EU, looks even more unlikely. The Conservatives remain adamant there will be no re-run of the referendum, the clock is ticking on Article 50 and it’s still unclear if this can be stopped unilaterally. Labour and Conservatives still support the Leave position: the Tories with the majority of their MPs, and Labour via their leadership.
So this only leaves option 3: the hard Brexit, which almost everyone but the hardest of Brexiteers think will do the most economic harm to the country.
But why would anyone march down this path with such certainty, I wondered.
Perhaps this is just the sad position British politics finds itself in: almost no consideration for the big picture, everything is reduced to rubbishing the opposition. Few of us can work out whether the deal on the table is good or not, but perhaps those of us not in politics might take the time to have a good look at what the deal really means before reacting, particularly how it weighs up against the alternatives, i.e. a hard Brexit.
And this is only the beginning. There’s plenty more to come, and while I’m hoping for a Christmas gift of common sense to our leaders and the opposition, if it all goes bad by the end of March, remember – almost everyone last week seemed to want M.A.E.D.
Author’s note: All direct quotations in this piece are my stylised inventions for comic effect, and should not be read as accurate quotes from the individuals involved.