Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Brexit and the prime minister. Where’s it, and she, going?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 3 Comments by Claire

I was going to write a post last night on my well-timed visit to Westminster, but when I arrived home everything seemed to have changed already!

The atmosphere near the Houses of Parliament was heavy with expectation and the oppressive heat simply added to the feel of intense anticipation.

The anti-Brexit campaigners, led by the indefatigable Steve Bray, who campaigns outside the Houses of Parliament each day it sits, were standing behind Leaver Tory backbench MP, John Redwood as he was being interviewed live by the BBC on Westminster Green, comically waggling their anti-Brexit slogans.

Mr Redwood was giving his view of the fallout of David Davis’s resignation, but as he was being interviewed the BBC was rehearsing the incidences that seemed to indicate a significant level of incompetence, including how little time Mr Davis spent with EU negotiators (four hours) and once turning up for an EU summit briefing with no paperwork whatsoever.

After my meeting ended (news of Johnson’s resignation broke during it and I valiantly suppressed the desire to scan twitter for commentary!) I made my way back to the the tube via Westminster Green and stopped for a chat with Steve Bray and his fellow campaigners to offer my support. There were scores of satellite trucks and media camped out there and many people were calling out words of encouragement as they walked by.

As I left London, rumours were circling on Twitter that the man in charge of getting the overseas deals post Brexit (precisely no deals signed so far), Liam Fox, was next to resign, but during my journey home, it became obvious that Mrs May was going to hang on by the skin of her teeth simply by being determined to replace every cabinet minister who resigned!

Her message appeared to work and the rumours surrounding Liam Fox dried up, to be replaced by “May to survive for now” type news stories.

For now.

Most political commentators agree, however, that the prime minister has only bought herself a bit more time. The description “zombie prime minister” has been used and the real test will be getting her ‘soft Brexit’ plan through the commons.

The white paper is set to be published on Thursday but the EU has already indicated that it will not accept the plan as it stands as it is still regarded as cherry picking. Free movement of people must come as part of the deal or it undermines the EU’s constitutional integrity.

The EU also regards goods and services as enmeshed, something that May and her colleagues want separated, with goods in, but services out, of the single market, despite that services represent 80 per cent of our economy and excluding services would almost certainly be extremely damaging to those businesses.

Equally, the EU’s view of May’s customs arrangements are that they’re unworkable.

Yesterday, No.10 infuriated many Tory MPs by privately briefing Labour MPs on the paper’s content.

This was a desperate measure because Mrs May’s team are fully aware that many of their own party will vote against her soft Brexit plan, preferring instead no deal despite its catastrophic consequences.

The Labour Party, with its hapless and ambiguous approach to Brexit were perhaps regarded as Theresa May’s best hope, except that Kier Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, has denounced May’s plan as “unworkable” “a fudge” and “a bureaucratic nightmare.”

The SNP is also set to vote down the proposals.

So what happens if Theresa May cannot get her plan through the commons?

Well, the betting odds of a leadership contest and also a general election have just dropped spectacularly ....

My own take on this whole farce that is seeing government ministers (albeit useless ones) resigning for self-centred, grandiose reasons, is that it is a shocking waste of time and public funds that we are repeatedly told we don’t have.

So far Brexit is thought to have cost this country a fortune. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney said in May that since the referendum two years ago it has cost each household £900.

Last November, Brexit had already cost our economy a whopping £20bn according to a team of economists linked to the well respected Centre for Economic Policy Research.

And as for Arron Banks and Nigel Farage’s Leave campaign links to Russia and the damning verdict by the Electoral Commission on the campaign’s massive overspend, it is hard to come to any other conclusion that Russia played a part in the referendum Leave result.

Banks is now facing an investigation by the National Crime Agency on their links with Russia leading up to the vote.

Our democracy appears to be in peril.

But while the media froth about the twists and turns of the rollercoaster that is Brexit, the real stories, the stuff that affects you, me and other people of average means - austerity and the NHS, massive council cuts, the travesty that is social care, carers not being supported, people dying alone because there aren’t enough paid carers or hospital beds… go largely unreported.

They’re on my radar though. Watch this space…

Pics: With Steve Bray, determined anti-Brexit campaigner.


1. At 12:56 pm on 11th Jul Paul F wrote:

A brilliant post encapsulating the state of the nation in only a few words - a clarity that Hugo Swire could never hope to achieve. Claire sounds more and more like our MP in waiting as time goes on.

2. At 01:30 pm on 11th Jul annabel shaw wrote:

Well said, Claire. It’s time that ordinary people took a stand. What passes for government these days is truly shocking. Johnson, Gove, Hunt, Redwood, Swire - to name just a few of the self important ‘Masters of the Universe’ making decisions that will affect the rest of us negatively but not them. You only have to see the corruption at local level to understand just how entitled Tory politicians feel themselves to be.

3. At 08:08 am on 12th Jul Chris Wakefield wrote:

Boris isn’t interested in business or jobs: ‘F*** business’ he tells us. And he believes dreams are a source of rational policy development. How can anyone who bothers to think about these issues conclude that they should believe what a small bunch of backward thinking politicians tell them about the future? Brexit is demonstrably (as far as anyone competent can tell) a bad move - most MPs believe that. The EU believe that. So why on earth is anyone prosecuting such a barmy policy? Answer - because the Tory Party is in danger of collapse - well who cares about that? Not me. I don’t believe it anyway - the Tories will survive just fine once they decide that Dominic Grieve and other so called ‘rebels’ are actually an articulate group of loyalists who deserves to be listened to.  Once the egomaniac wing on the right of the party is allowed to drift away, things will improve for them.

Democracy is a system for changing your mind about things so that we don’t get stuck with a self perpetuating and self interested governing elite. The people who will bear the damage from Boris’s dreamland scenarios are those least able to cope with it. And all the jam tomorrow that Brexiteers promise is founded on the proposition that we will expand our economy and have lots of new jobs. Question: who will protect the interests of the people occupying the new jobs if it turns out that the pay and conditions necessary to make this brave new world function undermines what we have already? Trade unions were founded over many decades against a tide of repressive elite resistance. Lives were lost in the struggle, and improvements were slowly achieved. Those gains could be lost in the feverish return to laissez faire capitalism that Brexiteers dream of.

I have done my best over the last two years to find some comfort in the prospect of leaving the EU, for the sake of my progeny, who will bear the cost of it. So far I see nothing of any value emerging. It’s a mess, it is counter intuitive, and just plain stupid. I look forward to its collapse in ruins.

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