No deal is better than a bad deal, May keeps insisting nonsensically, but the problem goes deeper: if you call everything a “deal”, like Donald Trump, you imply that complex international negotiations are no harder than haggling over a carpet. A treaty, on the other hand, sounds like it would be a lot more work, which is perhaps why David Davis eventually resigned.
May’s favoured Brexit will be “smooth and orderly”. No one, presumably, is in favour of a rough Brexit, like a rough sea; still less would anyone dream of a disorderly Brexit. Other things that are routinely called “orderly” are evacuations from buildings, military retreats and other ignominious withdrawals.
Warnings that Brexit would be bad for Britain were christened “Project Fear” by leavers, who now feel vindicated because we haven’t yet plunged into the third world war. People sometimes triumphantly bring up the Y2K bug in this context, which is revealing, since that problem was solved by huge amounts of internationally co-ordinated computing labour. Meanwhile, just as “fake news” now means any news Trump doesn’t like, so “Project Fear” now means any true news about how badly things are already going.
Queue, back of
Barack Obama said that a post‑Brexit Britain would not immediately enjoy a dramatic financial bonanza from shipping megatons of American chlorinated chicken to its shores, but would be at “the back of the queue” for trade agreements. His successor, Trump, told the Sun that May’s latest Brexit plan would kill off any agreement, before rambling comfortingly that one was “absolutely possible”. This made many people nostalgic for the time when we were just at the back of the queue, rather than lost in a miasma of bullshit.
The worst Brexit, we hear, would leave us a “rule-taker rather than a rule-maker”. The reason we were told we needed to leave the EU in the first place was that we were bound by diktats from Brussels; yet now it is haplessly acknowledged that we had been a rule-maker all along (see Liberty). As Johnson discovered during his time as a journalist inventing nonexistent EU regulations, there is no cost to being a rule-faker.
For some, Brexit was really about “sovereignty”, a sovereignty that Brexit itself proved we had always retained, or we wouldn’t have been able to leave. A clever new twist was offered by Andrew Marr recently, who said it would be only “fake sovereignty” if, post-Brexit, Parliament decided to keep a European regulation because not doing so would hurt trade. In the same way, I have only fake sovereignty over my own person if, when deciding whether or not to jump off a cliff, I am dissuaded by the prospect of injury or death. According to this serious new analysis, the only true sovereignty is that which encourages us to do the stupidest possible things.
The Brexit-supporting press uses hysterically Leninist terms of abuse for judges and others who pedantically insist on law and process: they are “saboteurs”, or “enemies of the people”, or “quislings”, or “traitors”. The Telegraph recently announced solemnly that many in its readership think May is a “traitor”, to which one can only offer that venerable newspaper commiserations on the quality of its present readers.
Brexiters claimed it to be intolerable that we were ruled by “unelected” Brussels bureaucrats, although the EU’s legislative body, the European parliament, is directly elected, while the European Council is populated by elected ministers from member states. Nigel Farage has failed seven times to be elected to the House of Commons.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said that May’s Chequers plan was “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200”, although the new Global Britain (qv) will not actually be a “vassal state” in the sense of that term long used in international politics – obliged to pay tribute to its protector in the form of cash and military assistance – nor will we have to pay the EU rent to live on these islands, like feudal vassals. Like many a stupid person’s idea of a clever person, however, Rees-Mogg is adept at using obscure words in the wrong sense.
Will of the people
The “will of the people” is fake news. In the referendum, 27% of the population voted for Brexit; slightly fewer voted for remain; and no one knows or apparently cares what the other near-half of the country wants. But this political fiction has proved useful in the past. As Mussolini explained in his 1932 pamphlet, the Doctrine of Fascism, liberalism became useless, and fascism necessary, “when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people”.
Spare a thought for the humble banger of tuned wooden bars, who like all travelling musicians will have a much harder time after Brexit ends free movement. As the composer Howard Goodall has pointed out, the increased bureaucracy, delay and fees for British musicians who regularly work in mainland Europe will “in effect choke off much of their livelihood”. Who will be left to blast out “Rule Britannia” on massed brass to entertain all the truck drivers stuck at Dover?
When all else is lost, one can at least hope for a “youthquake”, of the kind that some said helped Jeremy Corbyn at the last general election, before we learned that youth turnout was actually lower than overall turnout. Happily, the Grim Reaper has not yet lost his job thanks to Brexit, so optimists forecast that as older Brexit-voting people die off and Europhile youngsters come of age, there will soon be a majority for remain after all. If we make Instagram-powered elections a thing, they might even vote.
For a man who runs a social network, Mark Zuckerberg is quite shy and retiring. He has refused repeatedly to appear before the select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to answer questions about possible connections between Russian intelligence, Cambridge Analytica and the Brexit campaign. In response to the continuing omniscandal over this as well as the Trump election, Facebook has said that fake news comes from both the left and right, and banning it “would be contrary to the basic principles of free speech”, ie Facebook’s profits. Zuckerberg’s own “mission” for Facebook, proudly declared last year, is to “bring the world closer together”. Isn’t he doing well?