With the Brexit deadline approaching and no agreement in sight between Britain and the EU the likelihood of an abrupt end to negotiations and a so called ‘no-deal’ Brexit on October 31st seems more than likely.
But what happens after that ?
That the Brexit debate has polarised Britain into two tribes irrespective of party political allegiances is undeniable but the desire to Leave or Remain is not geographically uniform. We are not politically homogeneous. It is undeniable for example that Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar emphatically declared their desire to Remain in the EU.
The United Kingdom as a whole has indicated a clear desire to Leave through the unchallenged legitimacy of the ballot box. The mandate given by the people to Parliament must be followed through.
All very simple? Not at all. We should remember that for the wasted years post-Referendum, the failure of Parliament to deliver the result, whether by design or incompetence, has bolstered the resolve of political factions like the Scottish Nationalists who will continue to demand recognition of their own special arguments regardless.
It is of no benefit to Leavers pooh-poohing the perceived legitimacy of a large minority of Scots to be regarded as ‘ independent of Westminster but governed by the EU’ on the basis that ‘we are all in the UK’ because it is simply a fact that many Scots vehemently disagree with the Leave majority and disregard anything else.
Consider also the realpolitik regarding the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and NI and the fragile Good Friday Agreement which has near-universal consensus and is vital to peace on the island of Ireland.
Traditional rules of the game regarding the brutality of FPTP politics have been permanently disrupted by the Brexit debate. Never before in British history has the result of an election, be it advisory or not, been so cynically ignored by a sitting Parliament. We can all cite statistics and that both major parties promised in the 2017 election to deliver Brexit without delays, but who foresaw that the unintended consequence of this was to encourage every protest group and ambitious MPs of dubious loyalties to come to the conclusion that consensus politics has had it day and that it is those who shout loudest get the last word? That is a perverse disruption to British democracy and to our sense of fair play and must never be allowed to prevail.
Brexit has acted as an unwelcome catalyst, raising spectres thought to be, if not exorcised, then at least under control but today quite deluded anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and anti-democratic tropes are attracting more and more attention and airtime.
Extreme nationalism disguised as patriotism and extreme Marxism in the guise of diversity and progress have all combined in a witches’ brew to befuddle the gullible and pollute this most tolerant of democratic nations. Beware always mischief from state actors who do not have Britain’s best interests at heart!
Worrying numbers of our people are becoming stressed and frightened by what might be their lot in the near future. Friendships and relationships are being smashed on the unyielding anvil of Brexit. Our youth are being exploited by sinister groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, who with contrived, politically motivated and twisted logic, link Brexit and parliamentary democracy with impending ecological disaster. Unable or unwilling to tackle such nonsense head on and scared of ‘optics’ and scared of social media commentators, broadcasters and personalities, our paralysed administration lets them bring parts of our capital to a grinding halt.
That is the situation today. But what about tomorrow? What do we do tomorrow when victory comes?
A similar situation faced Abraham Lincoln after the surrender of the South in the American Civil War. The South was defeated decisively, its infrastructure utterly destroyed and its slave–dependent economy in tatters. With that came, in many Southerners’ minds, dismay that their way of life was gone forever. Lincoln understood the terrifying prospect of a permanently divided nation and after recognising that nothing like this situation had ever been experienced before, grasped the situation and acted decisively.
In what was to be his final speech before being assassinated Lincoln used, six times, the phrase “proper practical relation” to describe what needed to be done. The argument over whether the rebellious states were in or out of the Union was “a pernicious abstraction,” he argued – convincingly.
On November 1st we shall be out of the EU, and further parliamentary dialogue must be curtailed. For that is ‘pernicious abstraction’ defined. That Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have a different idea as to what Leave means does not legitimise special measures that threaten the United Kingdom as a whole.
We must engage with the 16.8 million who did not vote Leave, or we will not just be inviting trouble, we will collectively be guilty of failure. Without unifying, or at the very least seeking an accommodation with our fellow Britons, we are hardly well placed to maintain a healthy but independent relationship with our friends in Europe in the immediate future.
The Remainers might take a long time to understand that the status quo is going to change, but change it will. The Leavers have a duty not to gloat.
For Britain to make something out of our long fought for emancipation from the EU and to make economic and social progress out of this un-edifying period of conflict, we have to make compromises and accommodations for those who might feel disappointed and defeated now but who must be brought back into the fold in the very near future as part of a great and United Kingdom.
We remain a community of people with individual ideas, cultures and ambitions who stick together for the common good and gaze with ever growing confidence into a bright new future for all.
That will be our real prize, when victory comes.