Thumbing through a copy of J. K. Galbraith’s book on the 1929 Wall St Crash in Waterstones on Saturday I was amused to read that Galbraith had searched in vain in a US airport for the same book, and had, rather self-consciously, approached the book seller. “Er, looking for a book on the financial crisis by a guy I think named Galbraith.”
“What’s the title?”
“The Big Crash.”
“Not the sort of title we’d have at the airport, sir.”
Also on Saturday I got this yellow flier from the SNP through my door. Stop BREXIT: Vote SNP. In 2014 Scotland voted to stay in the UK, and then sent 56 SNP MPs (out of a total of 59 MPs) to Westminster. Then in 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. Scotland, as it happens, voted to stay in the EU, but as she had already voted to be a “region” of the UK this mattered not one whit. This predicament is, I venture to say, peculiarly and particularly Scottish.
Then on Saturday evening I went to the RSNO, in preference to watching Eurovision. Hong Kong, America, Finland, and England were represented, almost as cosmopolitan as Eurovision. If Australia can be in Eurovision, then I think Japan should join in. They would be contenders. Surely Japanese reality TV and Eurotrash are closely aligned.
Then in The Sunday Times I came across a fantastic mixed metaphor. Mrs May was writing to persuade her Parliamentary colleagues to vote for a yet-once-more revamped Withdrawal Agreement Bill (the WAB). Her pitch – Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be a bold new offer to MPs – was rather hard to find: outside lane, Page 13. But on the front page, next to a charming picture of the Duchess of Cambridge, The Sunday Times was giving notice of the ERG’s determination to vote down the WAB: “If (Mrs May) loses she has surely trumped her own ace and will have to fold…The WAB is toast.”
And one more gem I heard on the radio from a political pundit: “My crystal ball is broken, going forward.”
What are our options?
- The WAB is passed, and we leave the EU “in an orderly fashion.”
- The WAB is not passed and Parliament once more attempts to reach consensus in finding another deal. However the EU reminds Westminster that the WAB is the only deal in town.
- Mrs May resigns and a new Prime Minister enters No. 10. But this of itself does not alter the impasse.
- A General Election is called and the new Prime Minister is returned, or a new new Prime Minister takes over. But this again of itself does not alter the impasse.
- Parliament gives the nod to a “People’s vote”. Since the WAB is toast, and since it had been the only deal in town, this can only offer two options:
- Either we revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU, or…
- …We crash out.
On Thursday I intend, if spared, to vote in the European Parliament Election. It will certainly be the strangest election in which I’ve ever exercised my franchise. Many of the UK candidates, while they are in it to win, don’t ever wish to take their seats. Their preoccupation is more with Westminster than with Brussels. It is Mr Farage’s avowed intention to break up the Westminster two party system. Polls suggest his Brexit Party is the front runner. If they do well, Mr Farage intends to demand that his party form an integral part of the team negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. He will be in a better position to push for a hard Brexit. He wants to leave under WTO rules. On the other side, some of the parties, for example the Lib Dems and the SNP, are campaigning to stop Brexit and stay in the EU. When the 2016 referendum result was announced, a lot of democratically-minded politicians said, “We’re all Brexiteers now.” Both the Conservatives and Labour voted to trigger Article 50. But it appears that Tory and Labour are both being eclipsed in this argument, as the prevailing points of view become more polarised.
Maybe there was never any possibility of a fudge. Maybe leaving the EU really is like a divorce. You can’t be married just a wee bit. You’re either in or you’re out. Ah yes, but who gets the house, the contents, the car, the white goods, the CDs etc? Well, leave it to the lawyers. At least it would be cathartic. So here are three predictions:
- We crash out on Halloween.
- The next Prime Minister will be called Jeremy.
- There will be a very significant alteration to the constitutional arrangements within these islands.
There is one other possibility. And considering that the UK came last in Eurovision, we should be alert to it. There hasn’t been much attention paid to the effect all this is having in Continental Europe. Those occupying the Westminster Bubble are inordinately narcissistic. We continuously hear that the EU will come back to us, cap in hand, begging for trade. But the EU must be concerned for its own integrity. If the Brexit Party does well, and the returned members take their seats in Brussels, their remit will be to create mayhem. The EU must be well aware of this and I expect they are already workshopping certain scenarios. There is always the possibility that we could be expelled.