A Halloween Brexit – Trick or treat? Depends who you ask!
We’re still in the European Union then. Until Halloween. Unless we leave sooner. Or later. Or not at all. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, everyone’s got everything and nothing to play for.
The traditional October 31st festival was all about marriage and death. And malignant spirits. And foretelling the future.
Death is being talked up big time at Westminster right now. The death of Theresa May’s premiership.
Marriage is also on many minds. What feels to Brexiteers like a forced marriage. Between us and our continental cousins.
The EU granted us extra time to work out what sort of settlement we’re after in the week the British government launched the biggest shake-up in divorce laws for half a century. The plan being to make separation easier.
Oh, the irony.
And then there’s the malignant spirits. In the spooked atmosphere at Westminster everyone can see them everywhere.
To the Brexiteers it’s the remainers. And vice versa. While the Brexiteers also include those fiends across the channel who want to trick us into never escaping their fascist stranglehold.
The one thing almost everyone seems to have got their heads round is that crashing out without a deal really could be a kick in the wobblies.
Which is why the European Union’s decision this week to give us another half year to sort ourselves out is widely seen more as a treat than anything sinister.
But there’s also an awareness that, as the gap between the referendum and its enactment widens, its potency diminishes. Up to a point at least.
The European Council President Donald Tusk hinted at precisely that in a telling aside to Polish media. ‘Maybe we can avoid the UK leaving the EU – this is obviously not my role, but it’s my personal, quiet dream’.
Dream on, is the obvious response from more ardently leave-minded Tory MP’s, whose minds are focusing ever more sharply on getting May out and one of their own in.
The party’s rulebook says they can’t do that for many months yet, but if sufficient numbers of them feel strongly enough and are ready to wield the knife then it can be done.
And she’s said she’ll go anyway when she gets her deal through. For when, however, read if.
For now, she’s gnawing away at her talks with the Labour opposition in the vague hope that somehow or other they can cobble together an agreed form of words. And get MP’s to back it, even though they’ve given the idea the finger three times already.
Fourth time lucky? Feels more like the Forth bridge. By the time the painters have got one end looking nice the other end is starting to rust.
Also, it says something about the weirdness of the times we’re living in that the Prime Minister is angling for her own political death sentence.
Imagine King Charles the First suddenly standing up in his trial for treason and saying ‘ok guys, chop chop. Cut me down to size’.
But the reality is more prosaic. Closer to Charles Dickens’ character Wilkins Micawber who just bumbled along hoping, in his own words, something would turn up.
Many things might, although none of them to Theresa May’s advantage.
One is that Conservative MP’s manage to find a way to boot her out, and the party replaces her with, say, Boris Johnson. That’s not just her nightmare, but also that of the European Union and of business at home and abroad.
Many people see Boris as a man who’s never properly made the transition from journalist to politician. And, the saying goes, newspapermen exert the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages – power without responsibility.
Therefore, the fear goes, he could just chuck all the toys out of the pram. Cause havoc in Europe and rip us out anyway, on punitive terms.
At the other extreme, Theresa May could, as the ultimate price of getting Jeremy Corbyn to sign up to her vision of Brexit, agree to put it to the people for ratification.
If that happened, the forces for binning Brexit really really would mobilise. And opinion polls consistently suggest the first referendum result would be overturned. Which is why they’re campaigning so hard to get that second vote. Obvs.
Things will probably go a bit quiet for a while, however, because MP’s are off now on their Easter hols until April 23rd.
All the public survey and anecdotal evidence points in the same direction. Trying to follow the impenetrable ins and outs of Brexit is cooking everyone’s brains.
Don’t suppose there are many people even reading this. Many thanks to those who are.
But, you happy few, think of the mindset of MP’s. You’re tired? These guys would have to be lunatics not to be insane with exhaustion.
Some historians argue the reason the Yalta Conference carving up Europe in 1945 was a lash-up is simply that the Western leaders were too knackered to think straight.
If our MP’s today don’t take a proper break they really are mad.
Spooked by the prospect of a Halloween Brexit? Let us know in the comments.
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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