Wow. What a week. Britain is not meant to be an exciting country but this last week it definitely was. I have been trying to collect my thoughts. Here they are…(please note this was written before Boris Johnson ducked out of the Tory leadership )
Lots of people are worried that the Tories are rubbing their hands with glee, desperate to get their hands on the powers coming back from Brussels so they can get on with oppressing everyone, unrestrained by Europe. Actually this is the reverse of the truth. The Tories are not planning to get out, but to engineer a way back in. They are trying to find a way to do what politicians do best: compromise. Days after the vote, they were already rowing back from some of the claims made in the campaign. Like David Cameron, Boris Johnson is Pro-EU and always has been. This may explain the strangely long Conservative Leadership election that is now under way. This is presumably to give them enough time to delay invoking Article 50 while they figure out what the hell to do.
Even by their own standards, the incompetence of the Tories has been staggering over this referendum. Everybody knows that Boris Johnson is only doing this for political advantage, yet he and Michael Gove arrogantly assumed they could control the result and use it to launch a leadership bid. How wrong they were, and judging by their ashen faces and sheepish demeanour on the Friday morning after the vote, they knew it. They did not expect Cameron to use his resignation against them.
So anyway – the point is, Boris never wanted to leave the EU and is now trying to delay invoking Article 50, which would start the leaving process and make it irreversible too. By an interesting contrast, Jeremy Corbyn has said that Article 50 should be triggered immediately in order to honour the wishes of the electorate. This may explain the current civil war in that party, as his MPs know he is pro-Brexit and are desperate to stop him. In short – and in order to heap even more confusion on the issue – if you want to stay in the EU you need to vote for Boris Johnson. Which is something to think about. If you vote for Jeremy Corbyn he will not frustrate the exit process at all.
From this standpoint Brexit looks very unlikely. The Leave Tories will hope to delay the process for as long as possible, swamping it in compromise and manoeuvre, and hope the voters don’t realize what’s going on. To Remainers, this should come as a weird crumb of comfort. We may never leave the European Union at all. So there may be good news for both sides. What will probably emerge in the negotiations is a fudge, where neither side will get what they want, but it may relieve Remainers who can’t stand the idea of leaving. For the Leavers, we can be proud that we may well have started the domino effect that collapses or at least fundamentally changes the EU. After this there will be more disintegration than integration. Perhaps the EU leaders will realize that the organization will have to be democratized or face annihilation. I can see a reduced EU with fewer countries, no longer expansionist but simply doing what it was supposed to do – make peace. The EU is now in the position that the British Empire was after the Second World War, or the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After those seismic events, there was little point in trying to hold on to power. The game was up. Perhaps they will see that the best thing now is simply to let go gradually, and allow the member states to regain power democratically. However, judging by their previous behaviour this seems unlikely.
We rejected the economic fascism of the EU. We stood up to a bully. We drew attention to the woeful state this country is in and forced the government to take notice. We sent a powerful message around the world that democracy can work. Britain, pretty much a dead culture, showed that it still has some life in it.
What’s more, the current turmoil of the Labour party shows that the Blairites are panicking, and the fallout may redraw the political map in a way that represents the real political divide in this country. So there is cause for optimism among the gloom.
There may be something in the legacy of this vote that will be of mutual interest to both Leavers and Remainers. If Jeremy Corbyn were to win a general election, we may have the best of both worlds. While its pretty clear that he would invoke Article 50, he would also stay true to the values that he espouses. The ones that the EU purports to believe in. Human rights, workers rights, environmental protection, equality and diversity; these are all things which the EU has been taking credit for, but doesn’t support. Imagine Corbyn’s Britain where he takes us out of the EU, and starts implementing policies that Remainers will love (ie abolishing Zero Hour contracts). It’s just a shame that he’s so unelectable, which means we obviously can’t vote for him.