Yet again we are within touching distance of Brexit this week. Yet again it will be snatched from our grasp. In Westminster it is a game. In the north there is rage and despair. The fury comes from the optician’s receptionist and a wealthy philanthropist friend; from those who start “I voted to remain but . . .”; and from those of all ethnicities (please note, Jon Snow, that not all Leavers are white).
A Sky Data poll found that 41 per cent of people would prefer a no-deal Brexit, 35 per cent a long delay and 16 per cent Theresa May’s deal. If the result had gone the other way — 52-48 to remain — we would not have spent more than two years trying to find ways to leave after all.
“Let me be clear; the government will respect the outcome . . . there will be no second referendum,” Philip Hammond, now the chancellor, said before the vote. “The minute we stop ignoring the democratic will of the people in this country, we are slipping very quickly towards the banana republic I don’t want to live in,” the MP Heidi Allen said after the vote. “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide,” the official £9 million leaflets said during the campaign.
People feel subjected to chicanery and contempt. The constitutional damage alone may be irreparable. A biased Commons Speaker has ripped up precedent. Cabinet collective responsibility has been abandoned. Civil servants have negotiated behind the backs of elected politicians. The date on which we were to leave was changed by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, despite the act of parliament that fixed it.
It was bad enough that the prime minister ignored the warnings from all sides last summer that her Chequers proposal was the worst of all worlds; bad enough that she agreed it with the EU and pressed it three times to a vote and lost; and bad enough that she ignored the one compromise that passed the Commons, the Brady amendment, which could have resolved the Irish backstop issue.
The government spent a fortune ensuring that we would be ready for no-deal then at the last minute took it off the table, using as an excuse some scare story about another Scottish referendum. Then, to cap it all, the prime minister enters into talks with one of the most irresponsible and prejudiced leaders of a political party in British history, and goes begging to a continental hegemon for permission to be further humiliated. Yes, we are bitter.
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