In between JK’s howling hissy-fit and the werewolf scare, things have been getting a little weird as summer wanes and autumn calls. But none weirder than the clueless rudderless ship that is currently the Good Ship May. Having taken control of the post of Prime Minister the good lady seems all at sea with a Cabinet full of feuding suits jostling for position. The thirty-year running Conservative Euro Feud has simply been transferred into the Cabinet, resolving nothing. We’re told that after the Chevering meeting Brexit Secretary David Davis emerged victorious over the Chancellor Philip Hammond in a crucial debate by persuading his colleagues that Brexit would mean a reduction in immigration.
That’s it. That’s still where they’re at. As empty as Boris’s Folder of Big Ideas.
Over at the New York Times Stephen Castle lays out the state of the shambles:
“…in ministerial offices, where turf wars have rapidly broken out, advocates of the withdrawal have discovered that four decades of European integration have left Britain so deeply embedded in the 28-nation bloc that there is no easy escape route. British officials currently have neither the expertise nor the staff for the tortuous exit negotiations, which are likely to last at least three years and possibly much longer. Some analysts have even said they might take a decade. But perhaps what they lack most of all is a game plan. At the moment, they haven’t got a clue,” said Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a London-based research institute. “It is such a difficult challenge with such disparate leaders at the top of government, with such different views, that they are trying to work out how to respond.”
Senseless wishful thinking that ‘Brexit won’t really happen’ have been popping up everywhere as disbelief is replaced with denial.
The best of these were Tony Blair’s astonishing claim that Britain could stay in the EU if public opinion changed a bit.
Scotland of course, despite weeks of bluster and spin from Theresa May, are to have no formal say over terms of #Brexit & parliament is to have no vote. That was always a lie.
It’s astonishing that we have been dragged into this fiasco and now, two months on are still clueless. It’s hard not to disagree with Nicola Sturgeon that the Tories should simply “be ashamed” by the situation:
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 2, 2016
But rather than the comforting painless gradual withdrawal over years depicted by some, or the fantasy of this simply not happening, depicted by Blair and others, far more likely is a “hard” Brexit. This has twin drivers, the emboldened right of the Tory party – and the sickened and exhausted key players in the EU keen to lance the boil and avoid contagion
As observer Ciarán McGonagle has put it: “As the United Kingdom continues to drift interminably toward its decision on Article 50, a growing number of Leave campaigners have become steadily more vocal in their demand for a “hard” Brexit, commonly understood to mean an immediate repeal of the European Communities Act and, with it, the loss of membership of the Single Market.”
He warns (‘The Politics of Equivalence’): “The UK is therefore faced with an interesting dilemma. If political considerations dictate that membership of the Single Market is no longer viable, the UK will be required, not only to maintain its existing regulatory framework in the hope that a determination on equivalence is reached promptly (despite the obvious commercial disincentive for the EU not to do so), but to also ensure that it evolves and develops in line with EU regulation for the foreseeable future, putting paid to any notion that a more liberal, light-touch system of financial regulation could be adopted in the UK as a way of enticing foreign firms to maintain their London bases.
Any failure to maintain existing membership of the Single Market will inevitably present an existential crisis for London’s financial services industry. It is difficult to conceive how a London outside the EEA, any more than New York or Singapore, could hope to act as the gateway of choice in future for third-country firms seeking access to EU-based investors and consumers.”
This is just one aspect of the complex emerging picture. These people are fighting battles to do with short-term political gain whilst gambling their country’s future. The battle raging in the Anglo-British elite is similar to the culture wars raging in America. They will ‘win’ a populist war to ‘stem the flow’ of immigration but at a financial cost for their moneymen and hedge-fund backers. Who will triumph – the visceral xenophobes or the finance capitalists? It’s unclear yet but neither is remotely about ‘taking back control’.