We have to stop pretending everything is as it was. Brexit represents a unique rupture and the old ways of thinking no longer workby Jonathan Lis / February 28, 2019 / Leave a comment
What does it say about us that our prime minister is more embarrassed by dropping a deadline than devastating thousands of lives? What does it say about our politics that she can save face by deferring economic obliteration but can’t by ruling it out altogether? Last night, the hard work of parliament’s Remainers finally saw Yvette Cooper’s amendment prevail: we will not leave without a deal on 29th March until parliament explicitly approves it, and MPs can force a request to extend the deadline. But Theresa May has exposed the ugly truth: Brexit is directly inverting all past conceptions of reality, decency and sense.
May did not willingly capitulate. She is prepared to send us into the abyss, and MPs are having to drag her away from it. She only conceded next month’s votes to stop no-deal and extend Article 50 because a slew of ministers threatened to resign if she did not. If we avoid calamity, it will be because a group of politicians had the strength to prise it from our leader’s clenched hands. It is not normal that MPs are having to fight so hard to stave off oblivion. It is not normal that oblivion remains on the government’s policy agenda.
And here is the key: we have not extinguished no-deal but delayed it. When May announced her humiliating climbdown on Tuesday, she laced it with her familiar cynicism. An extension would have to end by 30th June, because the new European Parliament term begins the next day. To clarify: the key block now is that we can’t extend by more than three months, because that would involve standing MEPs in the European elections, and that would be embarrassing. This is the issue paving our way to a deferred cliff-edge. And of course three months would not be long enough either to hold a new referendum or renegotiate and ratify an improved deal. May is still trying to run down the clock to the final blackmail of her deal or no deal; she has merely re-set the timer.
The culpability extends beyond the prime minister. Parliament is now panicking and has decided to move—but still hasn’t decided where. In last night’s latest iteration of disjointed cluelessness, 324 MPs defeated an SNP amendment that would have ruled out leaving with no deal “under any circumstances, and regardless of…