It was a brilliant coup, masterfully conducted with a sadist’s attention to detail. All the ministers in the Cabinet were hauled up to Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence, where their phones were confiscated, as though they were naughty children. Then the stubbornly pro-Brexit ones who were rightly disgusted by the shaming sell-out deal May had cobbled together with her virulently Remainer civil servants were given the same choice Rommel was in 1944: cyanide pill or slow career death.
The cyanide pill option would have involved resigning immediately on principle: but then being ritually humiliated by having their official car confiscated and having to walk to the train station via the mile-long drive, or catch a cab, with a £67,000 pay cut.
A letter to each minister, leaked to the press, warned them of this beforehand. Petty, but given how vain ministers are, very effective.
None of the leading Brexiteers present – not Michael Gove, not even Boris Johnson whose last chance this was to establish himself as the credible voice of the Leave resistance – chose to do the decent thing. (Though Brexit Secretary David Davis has resigned since, as has his brilliant and principled junior minister Steve Baker – one of the unsung heroes of the Leave campaign).
Really, though, the “who did what to whom and why?” elements of this story are a distraction from the only thing that matters: Brexit has been sabotaged, democracy undermined, and the people betrayed by the Remainer establishment.
In June 2016, 17.4 million people — more than had ever voted for anything in British history — voted Brexit to free themselves from the clutches of that Remainer establishment. Now the Remainer establishment has responded as only it knows how: by ignoring the democratic will and shoring up its power base by whatever means necessary.
The two articles that best sum it up are this excellent leader from the Sunday Telegraph:
The dream has been dashed. We are still technically leaving, more or less, but there will be no revolution, no new deal between elites and voters, no great reset […]
Remember that British Euroscepticism began life as a revolt against petty regulations and controls – and all of those rules governing light bulbs and vacuum cleaners and working hours, however small they might have seemed, were indicative of the EU’s bureaucratic, integrating agenda. How ridiculous then that Britain should leave the EU only to voluntarily tie itself to those same rules. Even worse, we are willingly giving up the right to push through radical free-market or pro-competition reforms by sticking to the EU’s social policies. How can we, as the world’s sixth largest economy, and a major market for the EU, be willing to hobble ourselves in such a way? We won’t be able to have our own competition policy, or energy policy, and we will remain part of a myriad of bodies and schemes. And why this obsession with access for manufactured goods, rather than for the dominant services sector? Why not trade one for the other: after all, that is what any sensible negotiator would have done.
Last Friday felt like a political coup by the establishment, and an abject surrender by the Brexiteers in Cabinet, along with their colleagues who say that they now accept Brexit.
and this from Brendan O’Neill in the Spectator.
We know two things for sure about the vote for Brexit, and both of them make the political class uncomfortable: first, that the poorer you are, the more likely it is that you voted Leave; and secondly, that most people voted Leave in order that Britain might assume greater sovereign control over her borders and her law-making. This was a fairly working-class revolt against the dilution of British sovereignty by Brussels and our own politicians who love Brussels. I’m sorry, but it was. And what does Theresa May do, cheered on by ‘Soft Brexiteers’ and some Remainers too? She proposes the continued selling-off of British sovereignty through tying us into a customs arrangement that would limit our sovereign decision-making on trade, and keeping us beholden to certain ECJ rulings, which would limit our ability to make and live by our own laws.
This is a betrayal. A grotesque betrayal. It is a haughty rejection, in euphemistic language, of the great cry made by the 17.4m, which was for the recovery of national sovereignty and democratic authority. The electorate said ‘Britain should have control of its borders and laws’, and May says, ‘Actually let’s leave some of that control with Brussels’. This isn’t Soft Brexit; it is Remain by another name. When will our political leaders realize how serious, how historically serious, it is that they are reneging on the largest democratic act in British history? May should go. Chequers this weekend should be her ending. In her place, we need a leader who recognizes the positive, democratic drive behind Brexit, and who is willing to make it a reality. If such a politician exists.
Brexit, it is now becoming clear, was our Peasants’ Revolt in more ways than one.
It was our Peasants’ Revolt in the sense that it was an uprising of ordinary people against an accountable elite.
It was also our Peasants’ Revolt in the way — after a brief pretence that the elite was listening: Richard II rode personally to meet Wat Tyler and his rebel forces at Smithfield — was ruthlessly put down with all the ringleaders executed.
Obviously, in this case the ringleaders of the Brexit rebellion haven’t had their heads chopped off. Just their balls by the looks of it.
These are sad times for Britain. Especially sad, for those of us, like the author of the Sunday Telegraph‘s leader who can remember how good it felt to be alive on the dawn the Brexit referendum result was announced…
Two years ago felt like one of those special moments in British history where almost anything became possible. Britain voted to leave the EU despite the threats and entreaties of the amassed forces of the global establishment, after a brutal campaign offering the electorate a binary, all or nothing choice, as made clear by both sides.
Here was a chance for change of a magnitude that Eurosceptics of a previous era could not have imagined: to reboot the nation, to introduce deep reforms to our political structures, to rediscover our legal independence, to reorient our economy and geopolitical strategy away from a decaying Europe, to find a new role for ourselves and, after a few inevitable bumpy years, to become a richer, freer country. With laser-sharp focus, a strong leader who believed in the project, and a Reagan-like figure who could describe the shining future that awaited us while gripping the complex legal details, the government could have forced the EU to accept the new reality and come to a mutually-acceptable new settlement. Brexit’s “losers” could have been compensated with huge tax cuts or help of other kinds, smoothing our way out. The opportunities felt immense and exciting.
No longer. The dream has ended. The Remainer establishment has won.
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