Exit Brexit? Who knows?
The year 1984 came and went, and Big Brother did not take over. March 29th came and went, and Britain did not leave the European Union – leaving the nation’s future more uncertain than ever. But, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Theresa May’s political life does look to be nasty, brutish and short.
This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!!
For parrot, read the Prime Minister’s painfully thrashed out deal to leave the EU in an orderly fashion.
She put it more delicately than John Cleese in the unforgettable Monty Python sketch, but her words to the commons on Friday meant the same. ‘We are reaching the limits of this process’.
You can say that again. Her third attempt to talk everyone round had just failed. Again. Miserably.
Only by double figures. But still, in normal times a 58-vote defeat on a flagship government policy would be regarded as catastrophic.
You somehow got the impression Mrs May must have been nailed to a perch to stand up at all.
Face it, she’d just moved on from Wawwa land (we are where we are) to LaLaLa land (lose all lose all lose all).
Little wonder she’s getting perilously close to her own limits.
Ok, she only said she’d step aside if she got her plan through. If not she’d soldier on. But others have other ideas. Not a question of if any more but when.
Meantime, somehow or other, the show must go on. Hardly all singing all dancing, more screeching and hobbling.
The next step is, probably, a run-off between the options the commons came nearest to not chucking out on Monday. A very close trading partnership with the European Union and/or a second referendum.
Cue gnashing of teeth by the Tory party’s hardcore Brexiteers.
There’s also the strong possibility that Theresa May will have yet another crack at getting her unloved deal through parliament.
Some in her circle draw comfort from the fact fewer MP’s gave her the thumbs down at this attempt than the last couple of times.
The counterargument being that a single shot to the head may not be as dramatic as a long burst of machinegun fire, but you’re still a goner.
And the fact remains that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, whose votes Theresa May needs to stay in government, will never change their minds about the bit of the withdrawal agreement written specifically to cover their territory.
A brief reminder. Everyone hopes the trade deal to be thrashed out later will mean there’s no need for customs checks on goods being moved between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Irish republic, which is a member of the EU.
But if that fails to materialise, Brussels insists on Northern Ireland remaining in its trading ambit. Because the very sight of barriers on the 310-mile-long border could be enough to rekindle the bloody feud that bedeviled the province for decades.
It’s a real fear, but not so real to the Democratic Unionists as the threat that Ulster would cease to be fully part of the UK.
The clue’s in the name. Unionist. It’s what they’re for. To them, giving up on The Union would be like the Scottish nationalists abandoning hope of one day achieving independence.
Little wonder there’s been grumpy noises coming out of Brussels about the total cockup it’s been since what feels like forever.
And the European response is perfectly in tune with what the polls tell us is what we Brits think of it all. In a nutshell, it sucks.
But right now it’s them not us in the driving seat. The European Union has given us till April 12th to come up with a justification for asking for a longer delay to Brexit, of maybe a year, maybe more.
All twenty-seven member states have got to agree. So we’d better make it convincing, otherwise they could say screw you. Meaning we’d be out, with no deal.
Parliament has voted emphatically against this. But that’s just too bad. It’s our former friends and partners who’ll decide. And, unlike us, they have got their ducks in a row.
In the event, they probably won’t be that beastly because business and industry across the continent would suffer, though not half as much as ours.
Against that, EU leaders have plenty of other things to worry about. Like the expected surge of support, in the upcoming European parliament elections, for UKIP-style parties in lots of countries.
And there’s the small matter of sorting the European budget later in the year.
So the French president and others are wondering if they really want to be faffing around with the Brits when they’re so busy anyway.
If they decide the answer’s no they really could just boot us out in a couple of weeks. We don’t want that? Tough.
So much for taking back control. As removed from reality as the extra £350 million a week we were promised for the NHS.
Since then we’ve travelled a long way, though not necessarily in the direction we had in mind.
Remember that whoops-a-daisy moment last week, when a British Airways flight for Dusseldorf turned up, mysteriously, in Edinburgh? A metaphor? Surely not!
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.
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