After three years it is almost impossible to remember grown-up politicsby Jonathan Lis / May 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
In this week’s Brexit chaos, Honda announced the closure of its Swindon plant, British Steel sought an urgent Brexit-related loan, and Theresa May declared that she would present the legislation for her withdrawal agreement, even though it has already been catastrophically defeated in parliament three times. Each of these events threatens jobs and exposes a country in turmoil. And in each case the government will look the other way, deny anything unusual is happening, and tell us it is what we voted for.
If Brexit was about taking back control, it has shown us a country that has fully lost it. After three years, the government still shows no sign that it understands any of its problems. It talks to voters as though they were children, or stupid, or both. Why? Perhaps it is time to see Brexit not for its infantilisation of voters, but of the government itself.
Consider the UK’s entire strategy. It has depended on the EU indulging our tantrums. While the government has felt free to smash its own economic interests, it continued until very recently to insist German car manufacturers would dictate the EU’s. It believed it could play political fire with a no-deal scenario and Brussels would rush to douse the flames. It assumed it could demand changes to the backstop and eventually the EU would blink and bail us out. But the soothing reply never comes. The reason is straightforward: we behave like children but are in fact adults.
The EU has helped and spoon-fed us where it could, but has refused to surrender its own advantage just to shut us up. The government doesn’t know how little clout it has, and doesn’t want to know. For three years it has therefore stuck its fingers in its ears.
The negotiations have been infused, on the British side, with disrespect and disdain. It isn’t just the demand that everything must be on our own terms, or the obscene language about punishment beatings and Soviet prisons. It is the utter carelessness for Ireland, a country to which we owe decency and sensitivity before anything else. The UK’s political establishment didn’t consider Ireland’s welfare once during the referendum and only considers it an annoyance now. For the first year ministers in London spent their time dreaming of global trade deals while the grown-ups in…