Brexiting Bad: As Westminster Shuts its Doors for Summer, Battle Lines are… Blurred

Brexit? It’s all Greek to me !!!

In Hellenic mythology, Pandora was the first woman ever. A serious looker, but nosey. She opened the box, and all hell was let loose.

Cue David Cameron?

But for his referendum, government ministers would have been having a stab at what they’re supposed to be doing. Governing.

Instead, they’ve spent the last two years stabbing one another. No one’s impressed. Even they probably aren’t enjoying it much.

Now business has got the jitters. Major companies threatening to pull the plug on UK investment, and a top Amazon exec reportedly warning of civil unrest if we crash out next March. And, yes, the clock keeps ticking.

Happy days. Little wonder the hunt is on for a good fairy to wave her magic wand.

How about another referendum? Three-way this time. May’s deal, no deal, or no Brexit. Seriously mooted by some remainer Tories, but could end up even more of a mega-migraine than what they’d be voting on.

Government of national unity then? Torn as Tory MP’s are, between a hard Brexit half of them hate and soft Brexit that gets the other half frothing at the mouth, might this be the answer?

Probably not. The chaps worry the voters would castrate them for heavy petting with the other side, and female MP’s could also be stitched up. In a particularly nasty way.

Instead, the Prime Minister is thinking about trotting around the country trying to persuade the public her sort of softish, give-or-take, well, you know, up to a point, compromise formula is exactly what they voted for in the first place. As the last election proved, however, charm offensives aren’t quite her bag. From headmistress May, more of a marm offensive.

Also, she and her spangly brand new Foreign and Brexit Secretaries will be touring European capitals trying the traditional British formula of divide and rule. Again, history suggests it won’t work. Gunboats and Gatling guns are so last year, dear.

The buck stops and will carry on stopping with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. Michel Barn-door more like. Not easy to miss, but quite hard to knock down. He’s well up for the Chequers plan. Apart, that is, from describing bits of it as impractical, illegal even, and announcing it couldn’t form the basis for talks.

Hmmm … Little wonder the no-deal scenario’s getting talked up, and all sides are working on contingency plans. Most of them unwieldy, unwelcome and very likely unworkable. Words many MP’s on both sides of the argument would use to describe the government’s Brexit blueprint.

Polls suggest the British public isn’t just frustrated at Team May’s handling of the negotiations, but also bored to sobs by the whole thing. Understandable, given the rate of progress. Hardly suited to the news format. Probably work better as a tapestry.

However, it’s said that when Captain Cook made it to Australia the natives in their sweet little fishing boats blanked his whopping great ship. To their cost, as it turned out. A parallel somewhere here?

MP’s heading out of Westminster for their summer break could normally be expected to reconnect with their inner rational being and return in a few weeks refreshed, relaxed and altogether nicer people than when they set off.

Not this year. They’ll have had an earful off their constituents telling them variously to declare war on Europe, a state of emergency, or themselves unfit to govern. Or they should call the whole thing off. Or call the calling off off. The one thing they’re unlikely to be called on to declare is a ceasefire.

Which brings us back to the Greeks.

During his return from the war of Troy, the hero Odysseus at one point faced the twin perils of Scylla and Charybdis. It meant plotting a course between a giant ship-sinking whirlpool and a multi-headed sailor eating monster. He made it. Just. His crew didn’t.

But next to May’s marathon this autumn, it looks like plain sailing …

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his wonderful takes on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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