Brexit: What is happening in the UK (this week)?

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

Poor Theresa. She spent her life wanting to become prime minister. For someone like her, the only thing worse than not becoming prime minister is becoming the worst prime minister in history.

So, her one goal now is to get her Brexit deal through parliament and see the UK leave the EU on her watch, so she can at least claim that she did the one job she set out to do. If she had only lost the last leadership challenge, she would only be remembered for the Windrush Scandal. But instead, by not resigning at any of the many earlier opportunities she had, she will no doubt become the subject of a public inquiry, as well as have her own humiliating chapter in British history books. All that will remain in future generations, as with poor Gordon Bennett, is that people who have no idea who she was will use her name as a swear word, or as slang for a massive cock-up.

Boris Johnson got a haircut. This clearly should have been a warning to us all that something sinister was afoot. But it seems the more grown up his haircut, the less grown up his actions. Despite saying and doing everything to make clear how much he objected to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he then did an about-turn and agreed to back it, once she’d offered to resign if it was passed. This shameless bit of self-serving manoeuvring was so painfully obvious it was embarrassing even for those who despise him. Sir Keir Starmer posted a suitably sarcastic comment on Social Media, which simply attracted hundreds of comments begging him to take over the Labour leadership from Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy who? The leader of the Opposition was nowhere to be seen at the huge protest march in London opposing the government’s Brexit strategy. Instead, bizarrely, hundreds of thousands of people (who, let’s face it, were probably primarily left of centre liberals) cheered the former Thatcher deputy prime minister, Michael Heseltine’s speech, which also served to remind us of what ‘real’ politicians used to be like before the rot set in. He traced an eloquent and intelligent line from the beaches of Dunkirk to the present day to remind those jingoistic UKIP types that actually World War Two had inspired Churchill to call for a Britain that sat within a united Europe so that it would never again have to stand alone as it did against Germany during its darkest hours.

Also, lost in the noise of votes and rolling news, Vote Leave dropped their appeal against the finding of the Electoral Commission that they broke election law by illegally moving hundreds of thousands of pounds to an ostensibly separate campaign, Be Leave. The campaign are also now being investigated by the police. As the Guardian points out,

“Gove and Johnson played key roles in Vote Leave, Gove as co-convener and Johnson as a figurehead for the official Brexit campaign. A series of other senior government or Tory figures also sat on its committee, including Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the former international development secretary Priti Patel.

So, once Theresa May bites the political dust, we may find that many of those in the running to become the next prime minister were part of an organisation that is currently under police investigation for election fraud. (I wonder if they will be banned from public office as a result — that would confuse things!)

Brexit itself is the outcome of a referendum that was won by a group that broke the law by channelling illegal amounts of money, the origins of which are still not known, into a campaign to pay for services by a company that is now bankrupt after it used stolen personal data to influence voters through social media posts amplified by Russian military intelligence. Odd way to define the future of a country. Also odd that the government have not paused to question all this.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

We’re all wondering what will happen next. May’s deal is dead, and it would be a farce if she tried to get it voted on a 4th time — prompting many to point out the hypocrisy in the face of her resistance to a second referendum.

My rather optimistic guess is that in the coming week MPs will try to find a consensus around a Brexit deal which is likely to involve remaining in the Common Market, and taking that deal to the people in a referendum. Both of these options gained more votes than May’s deal when they were put to parliament last week. If they do, they will try to force May to take that deal to Brussels, where it is likely it would be accepted.

Failing that, if the UK heads towards a no-deal Brexit with no better options, then I think the day before that happens, MPs would try to force May to revoke Article 50. This would stop a no deal, and pause Brexit. If anyone has any sense, at that point May would resign, and hopefully Corbyn would be forced out too.

A general election would follow, in which potentially a pro-Leave Conservative party, with Johnson or Gove as leader, would run against a pro-Remain Labour party, perhaps headed up by Keir Starmer or Tom Watson, with the various smaller parties running on Remain tickets. The outcome of that election would decide clearly what the will of the people now is in relation to Brexit.

If Labour manage to oust Corbyn and replace him with Starmer, Watson, or any number of talented centrist, remain Labour MPs, they would wipe the floor with the Conservatives, who would be defeated on an historic scale.

But this is Brexit Britain. So, really, anything at all could happen.

Writing about politics, history, and society. An outsider's view on the USA, insider's view on the UK, and cautious optimist. www.tswriting.co @ts_writing

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