Brexit Betrayal: A-Stab-in-the-Back myth is already forming

Updated: Dec 19, 2018

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

That statement will be half-true for perhaps everyone in the UK when they look back on the present period a few years from now. For a select few, perhaps the entirety of it will ring true.

As May staggers on as PM, and the unruly ruling Conservative party continues it's endless infighting, the opposition and the country looks on aghast.

Battle lines drawn between the Hard Brexiteers (led by Rees-Mogg) and the May's wobbling coalition are hardening. Fissures are opening within the cabinet itself as May has given herself an expiry date, and Ministers Hunt and Mordaunt have each found their own No-Deal Brexit enlightenment.

Sensing the danger, and opportunity, familiar faces of Brexit and Remain have resurfaced, Tony Blair and Boris Johnson, both Persona non Grata to vast tracts of modern British Society, have been doing the rounds recently. The latter's opportunism and self interest is so naked, he makes the former seem like a statesman.

'Second referendum' has become a phrase, once whispered in Westminster, now readily said aloud even by some in the government, as perhaps the only means of breaking the present political impasse, and yet it's almost impossible to imagine the parliamentary manoeuvres required to bring about such an event. At the moment the government can't even set a date for a vote on its much maligned Brexit deal, which it remains almost certain to lose. The striking down of this deal is the only imaginable event that might precipitate a vote that may delay or stop Brexit.

May has both tactfully and artlessly delayed the vote until January. Her calculation is clear, and troubling. The longer she delays, the less alternative options are available: it will force all but the hard core of leavers from voting for her deal, she is betting (rationally but unwisely) that Parliament will not permit the nuclear option (no-deal) to occur. In the meantime she will work on some to-be-determined procedures that will ease the bill's passage, making the ''Backstop' element more palatable, somehow.

The problem is, there is no viable means for her to improve her deal, and no amount of political manoeuvring and PR efforts with an uncooperative EU will sate the bloodlust of the increasingly rabid faction of Brexit Ultras who continue to plot to take her head.

It's at this impasse that the notion of a second referendum, once a fanciful fantasy of reality rejecting Remainers, is gaining traction both in opinion papers and in background briefings to the press. The mere possibility of this has mobilised factions across the political spectrum, sending hard Brexiteers into a frenzy, seeing their ambition of a no-deal Brexit, scarcely a hundred days away, being closer than ever and yet it's own greatest obstacle.

The term 'Brexit Betrayal' has entered the national lexicon, as Brexiteers sense an-democratic plot to let people vote on something.

One of the more civilised interpretations can be read from Daryl Hannan, a diehard Brexiteer MEP writing in the Telegraph (Paywall)

The pages of the Express and the Mail express similar sentiments, and there's no ignoring the uneasy feeling that a second referendum threatens to make Britain's politics more, not less toxic. Perhaps sensing that at the present moment, the British people are, exhausted with two years of Conservative chaos on Brexit, seriously reconsidering their opinion. Demographics and Economics are powerful forces and both are giving the New Remain movement strong tail winds. This threat to Brexit, remains largely notional, as there's simply no obvious mechanism for it to make its presence felt in parliament.

Labour, itself divided and has been painfully immobile on Brexit: It is alarming that on the greatest issue of the day, Jeremy Corbyn seems to have nothing to say at all. He has at least given Keir Starmer (Shadow Brexit Minister) and Tom Watson his deputy, a relatively free hand to show his party still stands for something, though their ambitions are ever changing between confidence votes and referendums, or at this stage even just a vote on May's deal itself, none of which look achievable before the new year.

Their success until now remains limited: the parliamentary arithmetic they face is as unpromising to them as it is to May, with their non-binding confidence motion evaporating into thin air, it is hard to see what they can meaningfully achieve if Corbyn will not step up and work towards a parliamentary coalition to . . do something.

That indecision is hard to bear, but it should not be dismissed. If Brexit is to be thwarted, first Labour will need to make a decision to do so, we cannot have the two key parties of the UK constantly winging it and planning 24 hours ahead at a time indefinitely. May is fighting for her name and her legacy, Boris for his name and his future, at the moment Corbyn is not fighting at all.

At some point, ideally, someone will need to decide to stand for something beyond themselves. But if and when they do, they should understand that a good portion of this country is going to feel betrayed.

Already, the story is being written of the globalist, elitist, George Soros driven undemocratic doubters and betrayers of the country who want another referendum. This is an unpleasant narrative that ignores genuine, legitimate concerns on the impact of Brexit, it also ignores that a Stab in the Back myth for Brexit already exists, it hardened soon after the first referendum.

At present the young feel betrayed by the old. The educated by those they consider uneducated. Those who like to travel by those who don't those who can't afford homes by those who can. Northern Ireland by Britain, London by England, Scotland by England (and Wales?!).

There's also a much deserved criticism of the EU's record on referendums to consider: it has a habit of asking the question until it gets the right answer. Perhaps another referendum could happen, but that doesn't answer if it should happen.

To overturn Brexit is to exacerbate, not eliminate these painful dynamics that continue to divide the country. Whatever happens, what we are witnessing is the beginning, not the end, of a painful chapter in the British Story.

TransPacific - Coming Spring 2019
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