Remainers make Britain unready for Brexit, then use unreadiness to justify their frustration of Brexit.
On Tuesday, Britain’s political class reached a new low: both main parties u-turned on their remaining manifesto commitments. Theresa May (Conservative Party) announced that she would allow for postponement of Britain’s leave date from 29 March. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Party) announced that he would support a second referendum, whose advocates mostly want to overturn the first referendum.
May added hypocrisy to betrayal, when she wrote for her preferred newspaper (the Daily Mail) of Wednesday: “By committing Labour to holding a second referendum, despite promising to implement Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has shown once again that he cannot be trusted to keep his promises. His cynical political games would take us back to square one.”
Think of the damage to party politics. Who would caucus with leaders who can’t be trusted and hypocritically accuse each other of doing what both are doing?
Think of the damage to democracy. What is the point of referenda or manifestos, if representatives betray them?
Think of the damage to the economy. Untrustworthiness, u-turns, and hypocrisies create uncertainty. Uncertainty contributes to risks. We’re nearly three years from the first referendum, and the chances of leaving are decreasing.
Most infuriating of all, all of this was avoidable, but Remainers are using their unreadiness to justify their further frustration of Brexit.
Also on Tuesday (no coincidence), the Department for Exiting the EU (which is more pro-Remain than ever since the resignations of 2018) released warnings that less than a fifth of exporters to the EU have registered as such, but why should they? They have been reassured that we won’t leave without a deal. Before that, they were promised a free trade agreement.
Officials complain that the public haven’t renewed their passports or applied for international driving permits, despite the government’s advertising, but where is the advertising? Its drowned out by the same government’s contradictory promises.
Meanwhile, the government admitted (again, on the same day, Tuesday – no coincidence) that one-third of its most critical plans for a no-deal Brexit are behind schedule. It has secured trade deals with only 7 of the 69 countries that currently fall under EU free trade agreements. On the same Tuesday, it warned that we face shortages of foods and medicines, and that economic growth would be curbed for 15 years, in the event of no-deal, so we should get behind May’s deal.
This is perverse: we have a world of trade to choose from: shortages are inexcusable. We can find more trade outside the EU than in it, given time to substitute. If we are unprepared, the highest fault is the political administration, so it should resign, not retrench.
Unpreparedness is the fault of the Remainers. Their foot-dragging is in defiance of democracy. Most politicians are Remainers, most voters are not. Most voters chose in June 2016 to leave the EU. Most voters in June 2017 chose parties that were committed to leaving the EU. More survey respondents want to get on with it. Yet most politicians want to delay.
The House of Commons voted in January to rule out leaving without a deal. Last week, three Cabinet ministers said publicly they would resign if their own government did not rule out leaving without a deal. Yet ruling out leaving without a deal also rules out leaving with a good deal, because the EU can impose a bad deal, knowing that Britain cannot walk away.
The Brexiteer minority in Cabinet are creditably pushing against the self-sabotage. Reportedly, on Tuesday the Defence Secretary (Gavin Williamson) told Cabinet that the EU is less likely to concede anything given a commitment not to leave without a deal. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Liz Truss) characterized the saboteurs as “kamikaze.” (For the record, the three saboteurs are Greg Clarke – Business Secretary, David Gauke – Justice Secretary, and Amber Rudd – Work and Pensions Secretary.)
Theresa May is the saboteur in chief. She keeps offering her disgraced and rejected deal (her proposed “Withdrawal Agreement”) in a false choice between her deal and no leave, without an option to leave without a deal. As she wrote for the Daily Mail of Wednesday, “Parliament should do its duty so that our country can move forward.” The previous day, Stephen Glover wrote for the same newspaper (he’s better known for The Independent newspaper) that her deal is “our last chance to leave.”
No, her deal is not the last chance to leave, yet further mendacity lies beneath the public spin. On Monday, the Cabinet’s committee for no-deal preparedness secretly agreed to use an executive order to commit Britain to paying most of the EU’s £39bn divorce bill, with or without a deal. This is contrary to May’s promises that Britain would not pay anything without a deal. Why would she u-turn on this too? Because she is removing the uncontested advantage of leaving without a deal: we wouldn’t owe the EU anything after 29 March.
The government is setting up Britain for an unnecessarily costly, chaotic Brexit, into indefinite purgatory, with no published policy on what comes afterwards, and no credibility to uphold any policy anyway.
Parliament will almost certainly vote for postponement. One postponement leads to another. By incrementalism, we would never leave. Extension makes a deal unlikely, because it removes the urgency of making a deal. As one MEP has written, May has barely visited the EU since January, and her visits are shams of negotiation, while the EU is happy with the status quo until Britons suffer enough pain and confusion to give up leaving.
The solution remains the same as when I offered it in December 2017: May’s administration should make way for a Brexiteers who would repudiate her administration of Brexit, leave without a deal, then negotiate a free trade agreement from a position of strength.