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Britain is now close to being ungovernable. The confidence and supply arrangement negotiated by Theresa May with the Democratic Unionist Party, against a background cacophony of nihilistic nay-sayers – some of them within her own party – baying at the moon, represents a small token of stability amid a disintegrating political system.
For it is not just the fraudulently titled Conservative Party that is in process of dissolution, it is the entire political system as we have known it during the past half-century.
It is important to understand that today’s chaos is not a crisis of Brexit or of a hung parliament, but of the whole governmental system, from which the public is visibly withdrawing its consent. All our institutions are in confrontation with the popular will and the clever money is no longer on the establishment emerging as the winner. Media commentators, who traditionally spend most of their time exaggerating crises, because they operate by consensual groupthink are currently underestimating the gravity and historical significance of the current impasse.
This crisis was always going to happen, but it has arrived earlier than even the tiny minority of observers who predicted it imagined would be the case. The timetable has been accelerated by two recent events: the EU referendum and Theresa May’s kamikaze general election.
At the referendum, the electorate gave a decisive verdict in favour of Brexit. In doing so, it blasphemed against the most sacred tenets of the liberal progressive consensus, overthrew its tutelary idol, the European Union, and insolently paraded its newfound insubordination before its betters. Think of the Duke of Wellington observing a pro-Reform Bill demonstration from the windows of Apsley House and you have at least a pale simulacrum of the outrage that swept bankers’ boardrooms, Richmond breakfast tables, Brussels gourmet restaurants, student unions, Whitehall offices, BBC studios, bishops’ palaces, Westminster bars and innumerable other habitats of the Entitled.
After the initial shock, like the Guards being ordered out to fire on the mob in Queen Anne’s day, the establishment moved to put down the revolt. Rich Remain supporters called upon the judges to perform their duty in obstructing Brexit and they duly complied. The House of Lords was similarly conscripted, the media intensified Project Fear and all the unseen forces that unobtrusively control the nation mobilized themselves in defence nominally of Brussels but, more importantly, of their own power structure.
Then came the lunatic election that Jean-Claude Juncker had repeatedly urged Theresa May to call. The Conservatives quickly lost control of the agenda so that Brexit largely disappeared from the campaign radar. The public naively regarded Brexit as a done deal and returned to party political issues, sectional interests, imaginary “austerity”, “yoof” grievances and all the follies that traditionally dominate an election campaign. Through it all beat the pulse of Theresa May’s hoped-for 100-seat majority, provoking the electorate’s determination to deny her that sinister aspiration.
They overdid the reaction, so here we are in an ungovernable Britain. Remainers rushed to claim the election somehow cancelled the referendum result. That is patent nonsense. A referendum result stands uniquely; no subsequent election, fought on a multiplicity of issues, from Trident to dog-fouling, can reverse its mandate. In any case, the Remainers are deluded. The public has not changed its mind over Brexit.
A recent YouGov poll showed 70 per cent of respondents wanted the government to proceed with Brexit, with Remainers reduced to 21 per cent. It also showed the public still endorses Theresa May’s negotiating stance, with 52 per cent – the Leave figure in the referendum – now endorsing “hard” Brexit. The latest poll from Panelbase similarly shows an unchanged 52 per cent Leave vote. In terms of Brexit, the general election has changed nothing.
It is not the public that is vacillating, but the politicians. Why did Theresa May wait so long to trigger Article 50? Why did Brexit talks not begin until the first anniversary of the referendum? Why are we subjecting ourselves to tortuous negotiations conducted entirely on the terms of the EU, from which we ought to have departed by now?
It is more than time the elites absorbed some Brexit realities. There is no such thing as “hard” or “soft” Brexit. These are post-referendum deceptions practised by furious Remainers. Did countries leaving the Soviet Union opt for soft liberty, retaining membership of Comecon and the Warsaw Pact? Staying in the Single Market means staying in the European Union.
The Single Market is hugely economically disadvantageous to Britain, has significantly retarded UK growth and requires free movement of people which deprives the UK of any control over immigration, the chief concern of Leave voters, after sovereignty. In any case, both the Conservative and Labour parties are bound by recent manifesto commitments to leave the Single Market: the election actually renewed the mandate to leave.
Then there is the second-last ditch of Remainer resistance: the Customs Union. But that imposes EU membership and subjects us to Brussels on trade deals. Siren voices urge us to at least linger in the Customs Union for a “transition” period. Why? Why prolong a state of commercial paralysis? All right, plead the EU fifth columnists, at least remain in the European Economic Area (EEA). But the EEA is also based on the toxic “four freedoms”, preventing immigration control and crippling Britain in seeking trade deals.
None of these discredited institutions is compatible with Brexit. All of them represent continuing EU membership minus anthem and flag. The British people voted for a very different destiny. If the establishment obstructs it, the consequences will be explosive. Yet the sense of entitlement dies so hard the elites may, suddenly and unexpectedly, like the election result, find they have provoked a tsunami of resentment that ends their grip on power permanently.