Brexit isn’t real.
It might have been the only thing on the news for the last eighteen months, it might be all we talk about, but it’s not an actual thing.
Politicians say things like “Brexit means Brexit” but what they actually mean is “Uhm…hmmm…dunno”.
Here’s why — there are a few things we think we mean when we say Brexit:
🇪🇺 Removing ourselves from the customs union (or not)
🇪🇺 Removing ourselves from the single market (or not)
🇪🇺 Removing ourselves from the legislative and judicial arms of the EU.
On the first and second points — if we leave the customs union, we leave the single market, and vice versa.
So we either do or we don’t.
Fine, so if we’re Brexiting, we just leave both right?
Well, yeah, except the rather big elephant of the Irish border.
If we leave the customs union and the single market, a hard border returns between Northern Ireland and the Republic, or it returns between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
For various political reasons that have been brewing for about - oh I don’t know, five hundred years - neither option is possible. Any politician that allows either thing to happen will be rightly destroyed for it.
Now, many of the Brexity persuasion would argue that some kind of soft-border agreement will happen, and that’s fine in principle, but it won’t.
If a soft-border occurs (which in practice means using some kind of number-plate/scanner technology to wave through lorries) then you arrive at a completely unregulated backdoor for illegal entry into the UK.
But wait, I hear the Brexity chorus chime in unison. Surely, the way to stop this would be to have immigration checks at the border crossings between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain?
Ah good idea.
Except the DUP won’t like that, will they?
They won’t want anything that symbolically or otherwise distances NI from the rest of Britain.
And as it’s the DUP who are propping up this lethargic Tory government, one suspects they’ll get their way on this one.
Right, so to sum up so far:
🇪🇺 If we leave the customs union, we leave the single market. If we leave these, by default we must then have a new border between RoI and NI, or NI and Britain.
🇪🇺 Even a soft, technological border, will still require some kind of immigration check or we end up with a flood of unregulated immigration, from the continent and beyond, using RoI as a backdoor.
And if I remember correctly, one of the big reasons people voted for this Brexit thing, was to curb immigration from the continent, right?
Oh well, I’m sure it will be fine, let’s muddle past that one for now, it’ll all come out in the wash.
So let’s say all this is fine, somehow, and we’re now onto the key point of removing ourselves from the legislative and judicial oppression of the EU — getting our bloody sovereignty back!
Awesome sauce, let’s crack on with that one.
Okay first of all, that blasted Human Rights stuff — let’s cancel that shall we?
So let’s bin off the the ECHR, that’s the one that means all these bloody terrorists get cushty prison cells and the right to a fair trial and stuff.
Well no actually, that’s all incorporated into British law, but even if it did, it wouldn’t matter.
See, funny thing: the ECHR, the bane of Daily Mail columnists for decades, will in fact not be affected by Brexit in any way.
It has nothing to do with the EU. It’s a completely separate set of legislative instruments created by the Council of Europe, not the EU.
All the way back in 2016 (remember that, 2016?) Theresa May categorically stated that she would not be pulling us out of the Council of Europe.
There was a brief wobble, somewhere during 2017, where it appeared like May would consider withdrawal, and of course the hardcore Brexiters in her party (Moggy Mugs, I like to call them) consider it a key part of Brexit.
The reality is, it won’t happen now, or during the Brexit negotiations. It’s a red-line matter for Europe — leave the council and the ECHR, and there will 100% be no deal on trade. For as long as possible, May has to keep the deal option open, otherwise she will immediately face revolt within her party and in parliament.
So what human rights stuff do we get to bin off by leaving the EU?
Well, we can wave goodbye to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees mainly rights to equality.
Good, say the Brexiters, that’s more like it. Bugger all this equality nonsense.
The government has already committed to retaining the 2006 and 2010 Equality acts.
Existing CJEU case law will still be considered in British cases.
And any new EU worker’s rights will be still available to us.
So, erm… we can start ignoring (some) EU data protection laws. Our own data protection laws already mostly match the EU ones, but fine.
Certain Human trafficking laws, we can get rid of them. Although, it’s quite a non-political issue that one, we’ll probably still incorporate the same or similar laws for ease. It would be pointless not doing that.
Disability rights, we can remove that. Wait, hang on, mainly just a thing about braille needing to be on medicine packaging. I mean, that’s just common sense so we’ll probably keep that.
Ah here are the juicy ones, Workplace discrimination and Equal pay laws.
YES — let’s get those off the books. Oh wait, but we have our own law about discrimination in the Public sector. We can’t really not have it in the Private sector, then.
Well at least we don’t have to pay women the same amount as men! Woo, victory for the Brexit Bus!
Wait, you mean we already don’t pay women the same as men, regardless of the legislature in place?
So to sum up here -
🇪🇺 The big human rights stuff that the right-wingers get frothy over is in the ECHR. Barring some bizarre self-immolating turn by May (possible, I suppose) we will not be the leaving the ECHR nor the Council of Europe from which it is directed.
🇪🇺 The ‘smaller’ human rights bits, equality and workplace stuff, is either already in British law in some form or will almost certainly be upon leaving.
Good, so by leaving the EU, we’ve so far lost access to the customs union and single market, still had to incorporate or follow, or have already incorporated into British law most of the human rights laws from the EU or Council of Europe, and we’ve either created a hard border between NI and RoI or NI and mainland Britain, or a soft border that allows a “flood” of backdoor immigration into the UK from the EU and elsewhere, via RoI.
All of this is to say, in a rather roundabout way, that the fundamental concept of Brexit, just doesn’t exist.
It is not possible to do what hard-Brexiters want nor what soft-Brexiters want nor what remainers want, without causing so much of a calamity on any side that it will cause a collapse of the current government.
And if the government collapses, a general election will be called.
And if a general election is called, and Labour don’t run on the absolute open goal of a second referendum platform (after the current government having literally been dissolved by pushing through with a nonexistent programme of Brexit), then, well, there’s really no hope for any of us.
“But Corbyn’s pro-leave” yeah, he is.
He’s also, I think, not a complete and utter moron. If he were to run on the message that he will pursue Brexit, in spite of it causing the downfall of the previous government, it would be the most foolish thing any politician has done in recent memory.
So yeah, Brexit is all in our imagination, it’s as real as the tooth fairy and unicorns.
Hopefully, we’ll all soon wake up from this day-mare and get back to the real world.
Jackson Rawlings writes about politics and philosophy, sometimes technology and sometimes other stuff, all over this here internet. Follow him on Twitter if you liked this piece, but would have much preferred it in fewer characters.