By any measure the recently published “Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and
the European Atomic Energy Community” is an extraordinary document. Running to 585 pages, plus related declarations and briefing notes, it symbolises the UK’s practical acknowledgement of its inferior political and economic relationship with the EU, and the latter’s willingness to soothe that recognition with surprising generosity. A better Brexit deal for both parties is hard to imagine. Though arguably any final treaty based upon the proposals will leave the British in much the same position with their former European partners as they enjoy now. A sort of Norway-Plus/Regulation-Plus model.
Oslo’s trade arrangements with Brussels seem a particularly appropriate comparison to make here since they take the form of a permanent bilateral deal. Despite claims to the contrary, there is every expectation that the suggested settlement with London will eventually become an open-ended one for the EU, extending beyond the previously agreed end of the transition period in 2020. Of course, that very much depends on how one interprets some of the complex legalese in the text, including a few ambiguous phrases on European regulatory rules and their applicability in the United Kingdom as a whole or by the United Kingdom to the north-east of Ireland alone. With both sides apparently ready to commit to a treaty from which neither can reasonably withdraw without the other’s agreement, and with distinctly European institutions providing arbitration over such questions, Britain seems reconciled to a permanent post-exit association with or shadow membership of the EU. Which begs the obvious question. Why are the British exiting in the first place, then?
Of course, that realisation readily explains last week’s predictable ministerial resignations in the UK as Prime Minister Theresa May desperately tried to polish her Brexit turd into a Brexit jewel. Unfortunately no amount of rubbing could remove the stink of compromise in the noses of the Brexiteer ultras as they left a stormy meeting in Downing Street, complaining of olfactory outrage as they went. With the principled Leavers off the scene, the unprincipled Leavers have come to the fore, ready to position themselves for an opportunity to make a play for the premiership if the Conservative Party leader falls (as many informed observers expect she will). By staying in the still divided Cabinet, the Tory MPs Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling and Liam Fox intend to play both ends of the parliamentary field. Supporting the Prime Minister’s deal with her European Union counterparts like loyal colleagues, while simultaneously championing the need for a substantial redraft with their erstwhile europhobic associates on the backbenches. The old rhetorical defence of, “I’m fighting the system from the inside, man”, springs to mind.
Meanwhile the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party is planning to revive the Blitz spirit in order to defeat the underhand conspiracy by the nefarious Continentals to enslave dear old Blighty. Except the planned restaging of the noble retreat from the French beaches of 1940 is looking more like a reenactment of the last days of the US Embassy in Saigon 1975. Even the late appearance of the rival Ulster Unionist Party in the bellicose anti-deal camp has done little to cover up the glaring fact that the DUP and its allies are increasingly uncertain of their anti-European support in the wider unionist community. It may be only a minority of pro-union voters who are willing or content to accept the proposed settlement between London and Brussels. But it only takes a minority to fatally split or crack the loyalist electoral bloc to the benefit of nationalist and other political parties. It’s not the committed ones who come out and vote that worries the Democratic Unionists – its the uncommitted ones who simply stay at home.
Finally, in light of the Brexiteer objections to the UK-EU proposed agreement, here is the British Leave campaigner Peter J North strongly rejecting any suggestion that notions of racialist resentment and post-imperial ennui are energising the Brexit campaign in Britain. Or more specifically, in Greater England:
A foul-natured piece by Fintan O’Toole appears today in the Guardian. A typically cliche ridden delve into the British psyche. To the self-loathing Guardianista this probably passes as insight but it’s actually just a long sneer at the British.
It basically boils down to the wearisome stereotype that leavers are Colonel Blimp types mourning the loss of empire and yadda yadda yadda.
I do not discount that Britain’s psyche is very much influenced by its military accomplishments. We do take some small pride in our role in World War Two and yes we do see the Falklands War as part of that long tradition. We have a sense of destiny.
Certainly the British have a lot more to be proud of than a wire-haired mick penning quasi-racist poison for the Guardian.
Yep, imagine a “wire-haired Mick” believing that Brexit supporters represent a basket of right-wing, chauvinist and militarist deplorables? Shocking, I tells ya, simply shocking.