Rethinking Europe

Brexit and the Fear of the Mother-in-Law

As a million people march, Britain drops deeper into the Brexit black hole.

Credit: Gutzemberg Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • As a million people march, Britain drops deeper into the Brexit black hole.
  • One of biggest demonstrations in British history and a petition signed by 5 million people to stop Brexit have no impact on Theresa May.
  • Theresa May has donned the mantle of executive supremacy in the manner of King Charles I in the 1640s as she rants at MPs and attacks Parliament for daring to disobey her.
  • Neither May nor Corbyn are willing to face the truth that Brexit simply is not working as its proponents promised.
  • The EU27 won’t let the UK have its cake and eat it too. That’s hard to swallow for a British establishment that thinks it can extract tribute from the rest of the world.

While Paris puts up with the violence, attacks on police, looting and anti-Jewish attacks, which have now completely disfigured the Yellow Vests movement, a million middle-class Brits took a stroll in London to protest against Brexit.

But unlike in France, not a stone is thrown and, in proper British manner, litter is carefully picked up and taken away. The posters and placards the anti-Brexit marchers carried were witty. One of the best read:

LET’S STOP BREXIT. I DON’T WANT MY MOTHER-IN-LAW TO RETURN FROM SPAIN!

Yet, it was one of biggest ever demonstrations in British history. A million marched and in just five days 5 million have already signed a petition to parliament asking for Brexit to be ended.

May and Corbyn MIA

Sadly, the placid British demonstrators and petitioners have no impact. Their march was boycotted by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

Neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the Opposition are willing to face the truth that the Brexit which they both cheerfully endorsed in June 2016 after just 37% of the total electorate voted to quit Europe is simply not working as its proponents promised.

In 1948, Winston Churchill declared:

We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace… they will truly feel ‘Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.

This is the Europe the young people of Britain will lose.

A deep systems crisis

If only that were all. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has donned the mantle of executive supremacy in the manner of King Charles I in the 1640s as she rants at MPs and attacks Parliament for daring to disobey her.

She is right in one regard — the nation is bored with Brexit. But she does not understand that the nation is bored with her refusal to compromise on any aspect of Brexit. She insists it is the May Way — or no way.

MPs will seek to assert their authority over Prime Minister May much as they had to in the 17th century over King Charles.

Meanwhile, ambitious Tory wannabe Prime Ministers are hoping May will quit. However, there is no replacement who can unite the bitterly divided Conservative Party or find words for the march of a million.

Duplicity in action

In a well-worn ritual , the London Sunday papers all carried headlines saying cabinet ministers will oust Mrs. May. Then, the same ministers all go on television swearing loyalty to her and her deal. They look foolish, dishonest, liars. But the politics of Brexit is about folly, dishonesty and lies.

MPs opposed to a hard crash-out Brexit will try to hold what are called “indicative votes” this coming week. These are a kind of multiple choice quiz in which MPs list their preferences in the hope that a clear majority might emerge – most likely for a Norway-type Brexit, as I highlighted in The Globalist a year ago.

This means the UK leaves the political EU, but stays in the EU for trade and economic purposes, obeying all EU laws and regulations.

Mrs. May so far has excluded this compromise option. It is an anathema to the hard anti-EU Tories as “Norway” is code for staying under EU rules and laws, including accepting free movement of Europeans into the UK.

But time is running out as the EU has said it wants a decision by mid-April. The EU27 is simply saying that the UK cannot have its cake and eat it too.

Swallowing that, however, is the hardest thing to do for a British establishment that has always believed in its ability to extract just that tribute from the rest of the world.

No Deal can still happen, but Norway looks like a compromise at least for now.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexit No Exit: Why Britain Won’t Leave Europe.” [London]. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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