Saturday, Jun 15, 2024 | Last Update : 09:33 AM IST

  Opinion   Oped  18 Jan 2019  A Brexit tragedy is unfolding

A Brexit tragedy is unfolding

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Jan 19, 2019, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jan 19, 2019, 12:10 am IST

The “winners” constitute at the most four per cent of the total population of the UK.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AFP)
 British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AFP)

“Tragedies often make me laugh
Comedies make me weep
Give me the story that has no point
And puts its audience to sleep.”
The Book of Ehl-e-Library Tr. by Bachchoo
Suppose, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the Ides of March were not just one day of the Roman calendar but lasts from December to the 29th of March. The audience waits in suspense for the fatal blow, the “et tu Brut” moment. The likelihood is that they would be monumentally bored and that, gentle reader, is how the present political impasse and drama in the UK has left me and millions feeling.

There are now two focuses of suspense and boredom. The context of both is the botch of Brexit. The first is the conundrum of whether by the 29th of March 2019, the departure date set for leaving the EU, the UK will indeed leave or somehow vote to remain? If its leave, on what terms?

On Tuesday last week Prime Minister May put the terms she had negotiated with the European Union to the House of Commons. That vote was to be in December but Ms May postponed it to the 15th of January having had clear indications that it had as much chance of passing as the biblical camel through the eye of a needle.

By Tuesday the poor, dieting camel hadn’t got much thinner and the eye of that needle hadn’t expanded to accommodate it. Ms May’s proposed “deal” was put to Parliament and after five days of debate went down to, statistically, the most resounding defeat in Westminster’s history. The combined votes of the Opposition parties and more than a hundred votes of rebels from her own party combined to put an end to poor Ms May’s deal which, even after the resounding defeat, she touts as the best possible.

The second focus of suspense in this seemingly endless saga is the survival of Ms May herself. The day her deal was dumped by the House of Commons’ vote, the leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, tabled a motion of no-confidence in the government. Ms May smugly accepted that this motion would be debated and voted on the very next day. She was confident of winning, despite the opposition to her deal from within her own party and that of her allies from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland. These rebels didn’t want the government to fall.

It didn’t. The motion of no-confidence was defeated and Ms May stays. This is not for the reason that anyone apart from her husband wants her at the helm, but for the fact her Cabinet and her party, with unresolved four-way divisions on Brexit, would fall apart if there were to be a leadership contest.

Equally important is the fear that the fall of Ms May’s government would lead to a general election which could possibly put Mr Corbyn into 10 Downing Street with his promise to implement a radically socialist programme. They fear him as the three little pigs must have feared the big bad wolf.

The debate around Mr Corbyn’s gesture of no-confidence, which he and the Opposition knew they would lose, made clear to the country that Ms May cannot deliver the Brexit she favours and, in fact and practice, hasn’t delivered anything else. In an impassioned denunciation Mr Corbyn said she was leading a “zombie government”. The nation is aware that even among the walking dead of that government, very many, if not all, are harbouring their daggers under tattered cloaks, waiting for their moment.

Ms May has now said she is going to talk to dissenters in her own party and leaders of the Opposition parties to see if she can get a majority consensus for any variation to the deal she worked out with the EU. This could very well be a vain enterprise as the 27 countries of the European Union have indicated that the deal they negotiated is the final one and it is most likely they will not change their minds to accommodate Ms May’s clinging to power.

During these debates Ms May’s threat — or call it a concern — was an appeal to history. She asked her opponents to consider how history would treat them if they persisted in their opposition. She insisted she was championing the 51-point-something per cent of the voters who want to leave the European Union and giving the rude “go-away-and-have-sex” sign to the 48-point-something per cent of those who voted to remain. The “winners” constitute at the most four per cent of the total population of the UK.

A historical point comes to mind. Did Britain inherit this view of what is “democratic” from the Roman Senators who stabbed Caesar? Minorities, even by a margin of one, are dumped?

As 29th March approaches, it becomes clearer that there will be no consensus on the terms of leaving, not in her own party, not in Parliament and not with the EU. The alternative is a “no-deal” crash out.

Now even friends of mine, avowed “socialists”, label the EU a “bankers’ club”. They don’t like capitalism and yet through some weird calculation think that giving up dealing with the capitalist EU and dealing with the likes of non-capitalist US, India and China will get them away from the monster? Dream on.

The likely outcome, says the future historian, is that Britain crashes out of the EU, European markets become very problematic to access and thousands if not millions of jobs are lost. Indian, Chinese, Japanese and American capitalists and banker’s clubs offer to invest in Britain and restore its prosperity only if taxes on capital are abolished, the welfare system and the National Health Service are abandoned in favour of a stronger police force and private medicare and borders are opened for the importation of the cheapest labour available from anywhere, including Turkey, Africa and Asia.

They may even insist that Great Britain change its name to Bringapore! A socialist triumph!

Tags: brexit, theresa may