Getting 27 sovereign EU nations to agree terms (well, vaguely, sort off, ish) for the departure of a key member state?
Pah! Easy-peasy! Compared to the hard bit. Getting British Parliamentarians to agree to the agreement.
We’re talking MP’s here, all of whom are supposed to have the interests of the same one nation at heart, and anyway are overwhelmingly members of just two groupings.
Says something about the fractured state of UK politics right now, that this IS the hard bit. With knobs on. The snap your nipples off kick in the cojones crunch.
The front benches in the commons are two sword lengths apart, to discourage opposing parties from actually stabbing one another.
But the normal rules of engagement these days are as fond nostalgia as warm beer and cricket on the village green.
Forget the kitten heels, Theresa May needs stilettos. Real ones. For eyeball to eyeball combat with her own supposed supporters.
On Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn’s lot has also turned into a loose confederation of warring tribes. Not that it matters so much as he’s not in power.
Still, civility, once a byword of parliamentary practice, has become as flaky as the building itself.
Ok, there’ve been moments.
Like when Oliver Cromwell accused members of the Rump Parliament of being whoremasters, drunkards and cheats and told them: “in the name of God, go”.
But that was a while back. Normally the faintly irritating customs, like MP’s addressing one another as ‘my honorable friend’ etc, have the effect of inhibiting personal insults.
Likewise the bar on unparliamentary language. For example, if you call a fellow MP a liar you’re told to withdraw that statement or leave the chamber.
A cheeky chappie once got round the problem by indeed backing down, but adding “I’ll just say the honorable gentleman’s nose is growing”.
The point was made. They all laughed. No one got too close up and personal.
Compare and contrast the Conservative Brexiteer Mark Francois’ take on the knighthood dished out to fellow Conservative Brexiteer Sir John Hayes this weekend.
He suggested the man’s coat of arms should feature an ‘utter c**k rampant on one side and a big chicken on the other’.
In addition, he said publicly Sir John could list his political principles ‘on the back of an old postage stamp‘.
Naturally, he wouldn’t have got away with that in the chamber, but still these words hardly constitute conventional dialogue between ‘honorable friends’.
Sign of the times. Optimism and courtesy have turned into hatred and fear.
Rats in a sack? Vultures in Valhalla more like.
Francois’ point was that May dished out the gong in the hope of buying off his marginally less fundamentalist Eurosceptic honourable friend (ahem).
Certainly, she’s got the mother of all fights on her hands to get a Commons majority in the so-called meaningful vote on her deal, expected early next month.
As of now, she looks certain to lose, with more than 80 of her own MP’s siding with Labour, Democratic Unionists, Scottish Nationalists and Lib Dems in a solid phalanx of opposition.
But she’s defied odds before. Divide and rule is a powerful weapon. Plus she’s got an exceptionally large client state, i.e. MP’s on the government’s payroll.
Expect Downing Street to press hard on the new byword buttons. Hatred and fear.
Tory MP’s who hate the European Union also hate the thought of letting Labour into office. A potential result of defeating the deal.
Some also fear the doomsday scenario of just crashing out of the EU would be worse than settling for the compromises they’ll be voting on.
May may have set her face against a second referendum, but you never say never in politics. And the Brexiteers’ hatred of a ‘people’s vote’ is matched only by their fear they could lose it.
As the lady has said, admittedly in a Mona Lisa moment, no Brexit at all could come to pass. Beyond hatred and fear, to the diehards that’s despair. Worse than hanging, drawing and quartering and being sent to bed with no tea.
Meantime, she’s written to us all, bless her.
Leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 will mark “a new chapter in our national life”, she chirrups.
So getting this deal through “must mark the point when we put aside the labels of Leave and Remain for good and we come together again as one people”.
La la, la-la land.
The referendum confirming we were IN Europe seems only yesterday. Actually, it was 1975, with a 67% vote in favour.
As the result was finalized, the guys on the ITN newsdesk stroked their beards (quite the thing back then) and fell to wondering if the naysayers would finally accept the people had spoken.
Still, there’s nothing new in our fractured attitudes to our continental cousins.
The Hundred Years’ War went on a bit and all …
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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