May’s Day of Reckoning Looms Large
After two-and-a-half years of ducking, dodging and weaving, the British government is finally facing its day of Brexit reckoning. And Tuesday’s Commons vote could have the most far-reaching implications – for the nation – of any in the post-war period. Our correspondent Peter Spencer reports…
To say Parliament’s palpitating is to state the dark side of the moon is dark.
The Prime Minister’s just about old enough to remember the sixties song ‘Eve of Destruction’.
And sometime after seven on Tuesday, she may well be Theresa Toast.
Or Theresa Tennyson. Cannon to right of her. Cannon to left of her. Cannon to front of her.
No one expects her to win the vote on her deal with the EU.
Nor has anyone the foggiest what she’ll do next. Very likely not even her. And MP’s have decreed she’ll only have three parliamentary working days to figure something out.
Wilkins Micawber? Waiting for something to turn up? Nah. Sorry. No dice.
Brief recap. The DUP, which currently props up the government, is dead set against her deal.
They fear the so-called Irish backstop will mean in the end Ulster becomes semi-detached from the UK.
Why? Clue’s in the name. Democratic Unionist Party.
Do her desperate efforts to woo Tories who agree with them, or Labour waverers, stand a cat in hell’s chance?
Doesn’t look like it. The two main parties have one thing in common on Brexit. Collectively, they’re as doolally as one another.
Different factions have different reasons for hating the agreement Mrs May’s hammered out with the EU. It’s too soft, too hard, too vague. Maybe just too bloody annoying.
Which is why tried, tested and apparently failed solutions keep popping up, again and again, in a kind of random rotation.
The Norway option. Norway Plus. Canada Plus. Canada Plus Plus. Switzerland. EFTA. The EEA. EE bah gum. Whatever.
It’s like the Brexit book’s fallen apart, leaving it just a load of chapters splattered all over the floor. Each can be picked up any old how and presented as a blinding new wheeze.
To complicate matters further, there are agendas within agendas.
Cabinet members may say or do things as a way of getting themselves a ticket to Number Ten.
Backbenchers might do things in the hope of shafting their own leaders. Or simply of heading off some other outcome they like even less than the one they’re voting against.
The corkscrew calculations are so dense that commentators’ attempts at getting to the bottom of them can leave them looking like they’ve disappeared up their own. Bottoms, that is.
But one or two things are clear.
In coming days the watched kettle really will boil. The government could fall. Theresa May could be ousted, or resign.
Or she could, just, eat enough words to blow up her stomach, pause Britain’s exit and go for another referendum.
Not quite as unthinkable as Brexiteers say. With likely forthcoming help from the EU, she could make it happen.
And she could remind those who scream ‘not democratic’ that the first plebiscite effectively kicked out the Prime Minister. People power? With knobs on.
Alternatively, she could give the finger to the majority of MP’s determined to prevent a no deal car crash and say she’ll do it anyway.
Desperate times, desperate measures. Seems soft power has had its day.
Indeed, if you can be arsed to have read thus far you probably watched Channel Four’s recent seminal movie ‘The Uncivil War’ about Dominic Cummings and the Vote Leave campaign.
As the man said, this was beyond uncivil – it was total war.
Also, putting the lid back on the box was not possible.
Indeed, ugly forces have been unleashed. Fear, racism, hatred. Witness the far-right protesters threatening MP’s and journalists outside Westminster this week. Not to mention the toxic atmosphere within the chamber.
Not much fun for the British public either.
Tiny straw in the wind. An import-export businessman in Bristol was heard to say last week, despairingly, ‘I have simply no idea what world I’ll be dealing with in 80 days’ time’.
At least Theresa will be ok. She’s got a bob or two stashed away, and if all else fails she can always get Dave to budge up a bit in his caravan and make it a shared memoir.
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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