The first in what may be a series of posts on Brexit.
So, well then, the EU referendum, Brexit, what is there left to say about that clusterfuck?
First a confession. I paid little attention to either of the campaigns at the time. European is part of my identity and I was never going to vote anything but Remain, and overestimated a significant proportion of my countrypersons whom I assumed thought along the same lines, or who would at least understand the benefits of free trade and free movement, even if that only manifested in French lager and Spanish holidays.
It's worth remembering the reason the UK had a referendum on membership of the EU in the first place. A Conservative government with a small majority was elected in 2015 on a committment given by then leader David Cameron on the hoof to hold such a referendum before the end of 2017. The reason for this was, he hoped, to staunch the flow of MPs, activists and voters the Conservative Party was haemorrhaging to the anti-EU UKIP. His plan, as far as I can envisage it was to kill the membership of EU debate by holding a referendum that would confirm the UK's place in the EU and remove UKIP's main argument. It wouldn't have worked of course, even if the vote had resulting in a Remain majority those who want the UK to leave the EU would have continued to make their false claims and stupid arguments based on a malignant cocktail of nationalism, xenophobia and false nostalgia.
Cameron gambled and lost. He subsequently resigned, not only as PM and leader of his party, but later as an MP. He knew that leaving the EU would most likely destroy the UK's economy and possibly break up the country itself. He just couldn't do it, so he resigned, presuming that his party would elect one of triumphant Leavers to lead it.
What happened next was more farce than tragedy as one Leaver after another started resigning from any position that would enabled them to influence the UK''s progress to Brexit. Nigel Farage, who would never have had any influence anyway, resigned as leader of UKIP. Boris Johnson, the political gadfly former mayor of London announced he wasn't going to stand for the leadership of his party after failing to gain the support of his one time colleague Michael Gove.
Eventually after a process of falling on swords that Shakespeare couldn't have written with a straight face Theresa May emerged as the new Leader of ther Conservative Party and PM. May, who had been Home Secretary under Cameron for 6 years, with a history of political gaffs, had argued on the Remain side of the EU debate. So if Cameron had thought to leave the referendum mess to a Leaver to clear up his plans went unfulfilled.
May then underwent a private metamorphosis and emerged as an arch Brexiteer and pronouncer of meaningless sound bites. Brexit means Brexit we were told, and it would be a success. No one knows what that sentence means as there have never been any published success criteria for Brexit. Presumably these will be written after the event to show that whatever we get was what we wanted. A bit like when the manager of a team that has just lost 5-0 explains to the incredulous interviewer that his team is making progress as the previous time the fixture was played they lost 6-0.
May then, and I honestly think this was a clever move, brought 3 prominent Leavers into her new Cabinet, creating 2 new posts in the process. These were the aforementioned Johnson, David Davis & Liam Fox, or to give him his full internet title, the Disgraced Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox. To the astonishmennt of all sentient beings in the galaxy she made Johnson Foreign Secretary, one of the top three positions in government and one requiring extraordinary skills of tact and diplomacy, which Johnson's record as a journalist, MP, TV panel show regular, London Mayor and MP again had shown no signs of him possessing. In fact with his polemic writings he has in the past insulted most of our closest trading partners and a good deal of the UK as well. 'What was she thinking' was a common response.
Davis & Fox were given the newly created posts of Brexit Secretary and Minister for Overseas Trade respectively. The latter post has a certain Gilbert & Sullivan quality to it as the UK is prevented from negotiating international trade deals while we remain a member of the EU. Quite what Fox does on a daily basis is a matter of some debate, but this Cerberus was passed the role of negotiating the UK's exit from the EU. That was late July, and since then............ a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
UKIP then elected a new leader, Diane James, an MEP, who was never legally appointed and subsequently resigned the position after 18 days. This left Farage, who had disappeared off to promote his brand of right-wing populism in the US as once again, for the 4th time, as UKIP's leader. The leadership election was re-run, but not before one UKIP MEP was hospitalised in France following an 'altercation' with a fellow UKIP MEP. The victim Stephen Wolfe had been tipped too take over as leader but instead, followed the well worn resignation path. Eventually Paul Nuttall was elected leader of UKIP, and as I write this is still post.
That cannot be said of Richmond Park MP, Zac Goldsmith, whose resignation the subsequent by election it caused I'll address in the next post.
To be continued