A radical Labour government won't only be tough on Brexit, but that it will be tough on the causes of Brexit—and unlock a new Europeby Zoe Williams / July 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
A full two years after the referendum, in late June, Theresa May was still sounding like a baffling professor of formal logic, having advanced the conversation on from “Brexit means Brexit” to “Brexit means Brexit does mean Brexit.” She still had nothing concrete to say about what leaving the EU would involve.
Then, at the start of July, she finally moved beyond gnomic utterance, convening her cabinet in Chequers to settle the real choices—a single market in goods, but not services or labour, “taking account of” European Court of Justice rulings and so on. It was all fantasy, in the sense that there was no reason to believe the EU would buy it, but for today’s Conservative Party it proved too much even to get specific in the realm of fiction, and her cabinet started to crumble.
The root reason for this is that, with no positive vision of a future outside Europe from the right, and none for a future inside it from the left, there has been no change at all in the range of Brexit options that can be considered as logical possibilities. That still stretches, just as it did in summer 2016, from a no-deal, cliff-edge Brexit to the softest, greatest-possible-alignment Brexit.
An unfolding impossibility
“What about no Brexit?” is still unsayable—which seems strange given the dwindling band who still pretend that any of the available Brexits are at all satisfactory: either we will be submitting to rules we can no longer write, or driving the economy over a cliff.
Despite the government dissolving into entropy and rage, a new line of thought is gaining traction: there cannot be any good option, because to reverse Brexit would be as bad as to execute it. If you think the nation is divided now, just wait until you try and thwart it in its democratically expressed will.
It is bizarre to watch some Conservatives say this explicitly: Priti Patel tweeting, “This is no longer an argument about whether Brexit was a good idea, but is about democracy… the public want to know that political leaders will stay true to the promise made to them that Brexit means Brexit.” As the impossibility of Brexit unfolds, the act itself becomes irrelevant: all that matters is the decision to act.