A former government legal adviser in Brussels tries to unravel the mystery of Brexitby Philip Allott / February 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
It is said that a majority of members of parliament want the UK to remain in the EU. They can make that happen quite simply. Chaos on 29th March can be avoided by extending the period of negotiation. The notification of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU can be withdrawn at any time. Why don’t they do it?
For those of us condemned to watch the strange goings-on in the House of Commons, it is a deep mystery. We all know that liberal democratic politics is its own mind-world, its own team-game, but we the people have the right to intervene occasionally and to ask for some sort of an explanation of what is going on.
When the whole future of the country is at stake, say under a threat of war or as now, our right is also a duty. We may make a valiant effort to stay calm, but we cannot allow things to carry on as they are.
We immediately discount the possibility that members of parliament are showing loyalty to the prime minister or the leader of the opposition. The votes in parliament have in effect been free votes. And the two political leaders are puzzling figures, strangely isolated, incapable of leading anyone anywhere.
The prime minister is set on her lonely and obsessive path of giving effect to what she calls the “will of the people,” even if the rest of us have not the slightest idea what the will of the people now is, given all that has happened, and all that we have learned, since June 2016.
The leader of the opposition is practising something that might be called unleading, that is to say, not sharing any particular policy in the matter with anyone, even with those who might normally be expected to follow in his wake.
The public debate has also been unusual. British politics in the past was haunted at different times by problems that involved ideas. The ambiguities of imperialism, the perennial problem of Ireland, pacifism in the First World War, the general strike of 1926, and, in the 1930’s, the temptation of Soviet communism and the clash of ideologies in the Spanish Civil War. They were times when an unusual intellectual seriousness found its way into the…