Engineering a Brexit Exit

Does anyone else have a growing feeling that those charged with negotiating the terms of Brexit are doing so in the kind of half-arsed fashion that suggests they were told when given the job, “do it as badly as you want. Because, let’s face it – it’s never going to happen.”


Just take quick look at the following timeline and see if you can’t avoid leaping to the same conclusion.

  • February 20th, 2016 – David Cameron shrugs his shoulders, says, “what the hell”, and delivers on his manifesto promise of an EU Referendum
  • Feb 21st – June 20th, 2016 – Nobody lifts a finger in the name of remain because the result of the vote is a foregone conclusion
  • June 21st, 2016 – Those who technically should have been remain campaigning wake up and think “shit, this is going to be closer than we thought”
  • June 22nd, 2016 – Those who technically should have been remain campaigning come to the conclusion it’ll be alright on the night and get back to planning their summer holidays
  • June 23rd, 2016 – The country votes
  • June 24th, 2016 – Farage gleefully announces “this is our independence day” and without pausing for breath backtracks on the key leave promise of £350million a week being diverted from the EU to the NHS
  • June 24th, 2016 – David Cameron cements his place in the spineless section of British political history by backtracking on his promise to trigger Article 50 the morning after the night before and instead opts to fall on his sword. It turns out not to be real
  • June 25th, 2016 to now – Lots of political posturing. Very little action


By my calculations nearly 400 days have passed since that awful / wonderful (delete as you feel appropriate) morning and we’re still no closer to learning what exactly Brexit will mean and the impact it will have on our lives. 


400 days.


That’s an awful lot of time for the Government to deliver the square root of absolutely nothing.


Actually, I’ll take that back. They have achieved one thing. They’ve demonstrated through a needlessly called General Election that we now live in a country split down the middle by a decision we really should never have been asked to vote on in the first place.


I realise that’s a controversial point of view, but the pros and cons of leaving or remaining within the European Union are, and have always been, as clear as mud.


Nobody knows what Brexit will mean until it finally happens. Meanwhile, the mechanics of leaving will involve thousands of hours being spent untangling over 40-years of EU red tape and somehow replacing every last bit of it with Union Jack sticky plasters.


Everybody knew this when the referendum was announced. But nobody made any concerted effort to get people to vote with their heads rather than their hearts.


Yes, I accept a lot of people on both sides voted from an informed perspective, but those numbers were dwarfed by remainers voting to remain because they saw no point in upsetting the status quo. And leavers voting their own way for any number of reasons – my favourite being, “to give David Cameron a bloody nose.”


This was the biggest political decision the British population has been asked to make in a generation or more. It will be an era defining one. And it was foisted upon us as a result of an ill-advised political gambit, and arrived at thanks to one campaign that anchored itself on a false promise, and another that never even bothered to get out of bed in the morning.


And just to underscore the farcical nature of the entire process, those left steering the good ship Brexit are the same MPs who had unobtrusively pinned their remain badges to their lapels back in early 2016.


So, where to next?


The issue, as far as I see it, is that nobody running Brexit believes strongly enough in it to make it a success, but they all find themselves duty bound to the result of the referendum.


Therefore there really are only two options - full steam ahead or slam the brakes on before it’s too late.


If it’s to be full steam ahead then we need a Brexit team that actually wants to deliver. That means prominent places at the negotiating table for those who put us around it in the first place. And that means Boris, Nigel and Michael stepping back into the limelight.


If the brakes are to be slammed on then Theresa May might as well be the one to do it. After her catastrophic General Election she’s already living on borrowed time so she may as well make use of the time she has left to get Brexit off the table and provide a clean political slate for the next resident of Number 10.


Sadly, both of these scenarios would further exacerbate the divisions highlighted by the Brexit vote. But that’s the nature of the Brexit-beast – it is divisive and will remain that way until it’s either done and dusted, or shoved, kicking and screaming, back into the cupboard.


But just imagine the PR points that would be gained by the main players in a full steam ahead Brexit or slam the brakes on Brexit Exit.


Boris, Nigel and Gove would be hailed as the new holy trinity by the 51.9 per cent, while Theresa May could return to her wheat fields knowing the 48.1 per cent would hang framed photos of her above their mantelpieces and thank her until the day they die.


And at the end of the day, I firmly believe it all boils down to one key point – who’s going to come out of this fine mess smelling of PR roses.

Written by Daniel Kennedy, 28/07/2017