It has been near enough six months since the “UK” voted to leave the European Union. Since that rather odd day loads of strange things have continued to happen, not least of all the US election resulting in what might be in a year of shockingly idiotic democratic decisions one of the worst. I, of course, declared myself for remain. In fact, I am what the media/blogs are calling a Remain-Yesser, someone who voted Yes to independence and Remain in the EU, and both of those went the other way for me. I should be dejected and annoyed, but instead like many I am vitally engaged.
The plan for Brexit is one of the most laughable things in recent history. I recently watched the Armando Iannucci movie version of Thick of It, In the Loop, and it was still blisteringly funny. It might be better than any series of the TV show (but the two-part specials (Spinners and Losers/Rise of the Nutters might be better as a relatable arc). I adore Jamie, the “angriest man in Scotland”, who nails some of the best lines in both the TV show and the movie:
“shut it, Love Actually!”
“Are you a horse? Are you a ---king horse?”
“Oh, you know me Malc, kid gloves but made from real kids”
I’m getting side tracked by something that doesn’t depress me. Back to it. The point is that the idea of a huge policy decision with no actual, you know, policy behind it, is lifted straight from the notebooks of the creators, left under the heading of “This is too unrealistic, shelve it”. It’s actually happening. This is real life.
The “plan” is that Brexit means Brexit, which is going to be the idiom of our time. The brilliant thing is that it means literally nothing. “Brexit” is a fake word. It has no history. It has no definition beyond what we define it. It’s like saying “Preebu means preebu” – I just made it up, but that doesn’t make the sentence make any sense, despite it being correct, I guess – the key thing is that you don’t know what it means unless you know what it means. The point is that the UK voted based on a question that can means lots of different things or nothing at all – does the EU membership also mean the free trade area? Does it also mean the Economic Area? Does it mean that every EU “national”* living here will have to leave, and we’ll have to take back all those filthy emigrants?
No one knows.
It appears that literally no one knows, not even the government. They don’t even know how they are going to activate the clause to leave. Theresa May’s ministers have repeatedly intimated that Parliament will have to vote on the Article 50 bill which will act as the withdrawal statement. That makes quite a lot of sense constitutionally, but there are problems with this approach if you’re trying to force through policy that is ill-thought-out, near devastating to the wider UK, and one that many people disagree with – they will debate it, get a chance to change it, and can even vote it down. That’s kind of the point of our system of government, but it doesn’t play well into a decision like Brexit where no one really knows what’s going to happen or what it actually means.
I mean that too – no one defined what we were leaving in real terms. In the IndyRef the Scottish Government laid out all their plans leading up to the independence day (sadly, that would have been this past March) in a huge white paper. It was flawed in many ways – currency being a huge one – but the point was there was a plan. A solid plan that could be debated. It was ready to be implemented the moment the UK was told to jog on. David Cameron’s government arrogantly/haphazardly thought it was never going to be a leave vote, and didn’t do any preparation it seems, and then jumped ship shortly afterwards.
The point is that having no plan is obvious to everyone else and weakens your position, especially when you’re already backed into a corner. The approach that the UK seems to be taking is to not tell anyone their plans to stop weakening the negotiating position, but that logic makes no sense. Think of it like buying a car (which we are about to do, RIP Passat).
“I’m buying a car” you say.
“Okay” says the salesperson “what type of car?”
“A car” you reply.
“But, what size? What model? What’s you budget?”
“A car means a car” you reply. Again.
“But, I need to know more than that” the salesperson responds.
You can see how you’re probably not going to get shown the best models and the best prices when the other party doesn’t know what you want. You’ll be sold the worst car on the forecourt, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The other problem is that the other party in the EU negotiations actually know what the UK wants – the impossible mix of everything and nothing, something that no one would even entertain.
Yesterday the Scottish government announced their plans. Scotland voted to remain in the Unions twice, the first time on the idea that a No meant Remain, and now that that means Leave a lot of people are angry. The sentiment in Scotland is certainly interesting – asking people to choose between two things they think they have already chosen decisively is going to be a tricky sell by the SNP, but they’re playing the game quite well, proposing a UK system that is certainly reasonable and definitely possible but near enough political suicide for the UK government to attempt to broker, which means it plays into the narrative that the UK doesn’t listen to the Scottish will. That’s actually true, by the way – Scotland voted entirely to remain (under the system’s rules, constituencies might have voted differently) and that all parties in the UK “support” the EU (the post-Brexit motions confirm this) it’s going to be hard for the Unionist parties to ostensibly stay that way without also butting up against the idea that they’re siding with the bad guys again.
The plan has also roundly been derided by May which is obviously the whole point. The SNP have a mandate to pursue the right route for the people that voted for them and voted to Remain whether unionists like it or not, and that’s a fact. The other fact is that Scotland’s not going to get that plan and the UK are going to take Scotland out the EU no matter what, and there won’t be a bill.
So here’s what’s going to happen. If you were a No-Remainer, a Yes-Leaver, or a No-Leaver, you have a choice to make. The UK outside the EU or Scotland outside the UK.
Time for a new plan.