There is a wonderfully bitter irony that has encapsulated those who own the Brexit debate. All of their previous agitations, that the elite was ruling Britain from Brussels, that ‘snowflakes’ were censoring all debate, have been turned on their head in the face of the ongoing debacle in Westminster. Some of the prejudices that consumed so many in 2016 have not changed, however: No matter how divided the main parties are in the Commons, the EU are always the bigger evil, no matter who hopeless our negotiating strategy, there is still a conspiracy to defy the will of the people seething out of Brussels. Previous convictions have been forgotten, old allegiances slashed, in the vain of hope of coming out of the quagmire with a vague sense of duty and respectability intact.
It was no surprise, therefore, that this week Donald Tusk duly became the bogeyman of the Brexiteers, those forever looking for a devilish figure to heap their misgivings about the Union upon. Tusk originally called the idea of a referendum ‘stupid,’ and did not mince his words with David Cameron over the subject in early 2016. Tusk’s remarks that there is a ‘special place in hell’ for those who promoted and had no clue how to implement it were overdue. They nevertheless have caused uproar, with the predictable rabble foaming at the mouth over the ‘Eurocrat’s’ choice of words. They ignore the fact that Brexiteer Geoffrey Cox used a reference to Dante’s Inferno when commanding others to back the Prime Minister’s ill-fated Withdrawal Agreement. When it is the EU saying it, it must be dismissed as elitist nonsense, you see. Their language is now ‘undiplomatic’ and ‘unacceptable.’ That is coming from a Government that tells migrants they are ‘citizens of nowhere’ and has a Defence Secretary who tells foes to ‘go away and shut up.’ Cordial language is not the May administration’s particular strongpoint.
Imagine for one second that the sides were switched round. That is was those in Brussels who were internally squabbling over a minor detail over a customs checks at a border. Imagine that the UK was totally united over its position and had set out a coherent negotiating strategy when the formal talks began. Imagine that it was Jean Claude-Juncker that was telling Britain that they were arrogant bureaucrats and that the sooner we get rid of you the better. That situation was always impossible, because the government never had an exit plan, in the vain hope that a train of vengeance that had been going for decades would suddenly stop in the face of Mark Carney’s bland economic warnings. Brexiteers never expected to win either, and if they did they, knew that they could always rely on others to do the dirty work of implementing it as they commentate on the ‘betrayal’ of their cause. Their talent for saying ‘nothing to do with me, guv’ has led to the political impasse we see in Westminster today and it is to the detriment of our entire political class that they ignore it. Bitter feuds with the EU and forlorn hopes that an ‘eleventh-hour’ solution will save the day show a complete lack of responsibility that has engulfed the Tory Party. Brexit has managed to get those who would have previously come together over common causes to be defined over every part of their views of the Brexit convulsion and to create unbreakable trenches along party lines.
While the clock tick ominously down to the 29th March, the real reality of a no-deal Brexit becomes ever clearer to the eye. In the face of this, those who told us of their hopes and dreams in a Brexit utopia are running scared of the fact that they never had a workable solution. They ignore this simple fact and its consequences at their own peril.