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The Brexit debacle is so intrinsically insane, so demonstrably the consequence of politicians’ divorce from reality, that future historians will struggle to comprehend how the governments of 28 “developed” nations in the 21st century could so utterly banish reason from their deliberations and even, for a brief period at least, impose their fantasies upon the British and European public.
The prime responsibility rests with the British government. It began with its failure to alter its character and composition in the wake of the Leave victory on 23 June 2016. David Cameron departed – in deference to an inescapable constitutional axiom – but the government that continued in office was, in essence, the same administration as before the referendum.
It does not seem to have occurred to the denizens of Westminster that the sanctions which follow a general election defeat should apply at least as punitively after a referendum defeat on the most major constitutional issue imaginable. If, at a general election, Labour wins an overall majority with 52 per cent of the vote it does not, out of “respect” for the defeated minority, award ministerial posts to a large number of Tories: while embarking on a policy of widespread nationalization it does not pack its Cabinet with resolute defenders of private enterprise.
In contrast to that logical precedent, the Conservative Party expressed its contempt for pro-Brexit voters by electing a Remainer as prime minister; this was compounded by the appointment of Philip Hammond, uber-Remainer, to the key office of chancellor.
The post-referendum Tory government’s chief responsibility is to execute Brexit and that calls for a wholly Brexiteer Cabinet, no ifs, no buts. What we are currently witnessing is the Second World War being fought with Chamberlain in Number 10 and Halifax at the Exchequer.
Immediately following their referendum defeat Remainers got up a cry that the views of the minority must be “respected” and their wishes reflected in the crafting of the Brexit settlement. On the general election analogy, why? And how exactly, while implementing exit from the European Union, would it be possible also to accede to the wishes of those who wished to stay? By confecting a half-in, half-out settlement is the only logical answer: a nonsensical solution that would defy the wishes of the electorate and create a constitutionally hermaphrodite Britain, paralysed politically and economically.
Daily, Britain is being humiliated by its crypto-Remainer politicians taking every opportunity to surrender to the Brussels hoods. The Brexit “divorce bill” fabricated on the hoof by Brussels’ creative accountants is a nonsense. Even a report by the ultra-Remain House of Lords conceded that Britain, a net contributor for 43 costly years, does not owe the EU a penny. Yet now our pathetic Prime Minister is prepared to shell out €40bn and rising to the Brussels blackmailers for the dubious privilege of talking to them about trade, at which point she would learn on what abysmally punitive terms they would be prepared to swindle us.
That €40bn Danegeld is equal to our annual defence budget. What will British taxpayers say when they find out that, against a background of austerity, such enormous sums are to be thrown at Brussels to secure gold-plated pensions for the EU nomenklatura, while domestic services languish? Britain is alleged to be in a “weak” position because it is in confrontation with 27 other combined states. The briefest glance at the internal harmony of those states – notably the Visegrad nations vis-à-vis Brussels – dispels that delusion.
Germany cannot even confect a government. Ireland, supposedly poised to veto an EU trade deal for the Ould Enemy, has only avoided a general election by sacrificing its deputy prime minister. The Irish Border “crisis” is the tallest of all the Remainer tales. Apparently, if a few jobsworths in peaked caps with clipboards signal the existence of a border north of Dundalk, the Irish, north and south, will start slaughtering one another. Why? Why on earth would they do that?
On the model of the myth of “hard” and “soft” Brexit, a mandarin maxim has sprung up in Whitehall, the Guardian editorial suite and other bastions of liberal fantasy that a “hard” Irish border is unthinkable. On the contrary, in the real world, it is indispensable. What is actually unthinkable – and unworkable – is the notion of a continuing “soft” border. From 29 March 2019 it will no longer be the Irish border, but the EU frontier – Britain’s only land frontier with the European Union.
As such, it will be an Achilles’ heel, not in terms of movement of goods but as regards movement of people. The Irish government, still subject to the “Four Freedoms” of Single Market membership, would be unable to bar entry at Irish ports and airports to many migrants; the Northern Irish authorities would have to shoulder that responsibility not in Belfast, as in the case of goods being moved, but at the frontier between two sovereign states, one within the EU, the other outside.
It would be foolish of the Irish government to make trouble for Britain, from which it imports 30 per cent of its goods; although only 17 per cent of Ireland’s exports come from the UK, 30 per cent of its employment is in sectors related to UK exports. There is no advantage to Dublin in placing a veto on EU trade talks with Britain or exploiting Brexit in the interests of Irish reunification. There can be no question of Northern Ireland remaining in the Single Market and moving the EU frontier to the Irish Sea. Ireland will be reunited when and if, in a Brexit-style referendum, a majority of Northern Ireland’s electorate endorses unification. No other possibility exists.
The problem is not simply that a Remainer government has been entrusted with implementing Brexit, but that it has chosen to do so via Article 50. As a consequence, British negotiators have been trapped by EU snake-oil salesmen in a quagmire of bogus negotiations. The need for a “transition” period is another canard successfully sold to Remain-minded UK politicians, to avoid an imaginary “cliff edge”. The real cliff edge is the one on which the EU is tottering. Britain’s departure signals the beginning of the dissolution of the Brussels behemoth, accompanied by the loss of 16 per cent of its revenue.
It is the EU that is in trouble, not Britain, but for the complicity of our politicians. Their fables are becoming increasingly transparent, but the stubborn resistance of Brussels has emboldened unreconstructed Remainers to behave as if they were “winning”, even to the extent of demanding a rerun of the referendum and forecasting that Brexit cannot be implemented before 2030. This, however, will be all to the good if, as seems increasingly likely, it triggers a no-deal exit from the EU – the path we should voluntarily have taken, beginning on 24 June 2016.