Xavier Bettel, we can be sure, speaks for the vast majority of European leaders. The United Kingdom’s shambolic handling of its departure from Europe is a serious matter. Not only does this threaten the health and well-being of ordinary people in the UK, it poses a serious risk to the peace and security of Ireland – an EU member state, it promises serious and far-reaching economic consequences for the United Kingdom and the European Union, and creates – by damaging the integrity of the institutions which have preserved peace and coöperation since the end of the Second World War...
Boris Johnson, our new Prime Minister, is a man who shamelessly stood in front of a bus during the Brexit referendum campaign and told voters that leaving the European Union would return £350 million every week to essential public services like the NHS; all the while knowing this was untrue. Since moving into Number 10 he has repeated over and again that his government is engaged in ongoing negotiations with its European partners, when the European parliament and commission have unequivocally stated this is not the case.
At midnight on Thursday 31 October 2019 our open borders with the European Union will close, the free movement of people will end, and every one of the thousands of agreements and common understandings on trade, security, policing, health and safety, and transport will be irrevocably terminated. On and after 31 October food will not arrive into UK ports from any EU member state until, as a foreign state, the UK has negotiated a new set of trade agreements with Europe – a process which cannot begin until after the UK has left the EU and which may take weeks or months to finalise.
In Britain, the architects of ‘Global Britain’ – the hardline Brexiteers – have envisioned a new future and new direction for the British state post-EU. ‘Empire 2.0’ is a neoliberal project built on a sinister neo-imperialist nostalgia which seeks to restore the former greatness of the United Kingdom. They want to construct an anarcho-capitalist wonderland for the powerful, wealthy, and privileged ruling class – the English Übermensch, veiled by the trappings of classical Britishness; the signs of soft nationalism – the London bus, the red letterbox, and the now ubiquitous Union Jack.
A number of senior Conservatives have already voiced their concerns that there are powerful forces at play in the state, working to ensure the hardest possible departure from Europe. In the House of Lords, Nigel Lawson wasn’t joking when he said there is a “real danger that undesirable, but often understandable, insurrectionary forces will feel they cannot trust the British parliament [if a hard Brexit is avoided],” and that as a result “a very ugly situation could well arise.”
This is not what should happen in a free and democratic society. Our leaders have power only because we consent to be governed. They press the flesh of police officers and soldiers at photo-ops, they do not use them as witting or unwitting props in a campaign of intimidation. Democratic leaders do not politicise the police and the army and otherwise make their members instruments in a partisan conflict in which it is likely some level of force will be used. This is an upsetting development and one we must now all watch closely.
On the Remain and the anti-no-deal side of the Brexit debate, we have developed a tendency to magnify even the slightest glimmers of hope into reasons to believe this Brexit won’t happen. This fallacious logic has become a house we have built on the sand of normalcy – the erroneous and dangerous belief that the conditions which prevail at present will remain the same in the future. Together, these beliefs have conspired to create in our various camps a form of political wishful thinking.
This is of course something we should all fear. There’s nothing good on offer in English politics right now. Looking over the options – the so-called alternatives, is like surveying a mediaeval torturer’s work bench; while some of the implements are qualitatively better or worse than others, none of them are exactly what you’d call ‘health promoting.’ There are the pincers, there to rip the flesh from the victim – used to inflict maximum suffering while not endangering the life of the condemned.