Don’t stop moaning: Brexit literally isn’t a done deal

Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Victoria Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Triggered or not, Article 50 makes no difference to our fight

So, it has come to pass. Our PM, guided as always by the voices in her head, has fired two proton torpedoes through the two-metre wide exhaust port of Article 50 and set off the chain reaction of bureaucratic and economic explosions which will, we're told, lead inexorably to the expulsion of whatever's left of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

I will not waste time and ink here reiterating the various incontrovertible reasons why this is a suicidally terrible idea. Or reflect upon the arrant mendacity of the 'winning' argument or its oleaginously smug proponents' willingness to admit to this after the fact (but not, notably, to apologise). Or bring up again the issue that still – STILL – after nine months of asking, I've yet to find a Leave advocate who can cite me a single practical, tangible, measurable, actual benefit that Brexit will bring the British people (as opposed to abstracts like 'sovereignty', whatever the hell that means in a country where the government can exercise absolute executive power having won 37% of the vote). Or mention the projected cost of £60 billion. Or even allude to the fact that the whole referendum was simply an exercise in shoring up the panicky racist vote for the Conservatives after the defection to UKIP of Messrs. Reckless and Carswell (one of whom promptly lost his seat and the other of whom just un-defected, so phew, good thing we sorted THAT out). Or consider how Britain will now (as someone pointed out on Twitter this week) expel a good percentage of its young skilled workforce while simultaneously trying to re-absorb a million or so angry sunburned pensioners who have just been deported from their villas on the Costa Del Bingo. I'm not going to dwell on any of that.

Rather, let's talk about what we do next.

Next? What do you mean next, I pretend to imagine hearing you cry. There is no 'next'. It's over, we lost.

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It's never over.

I would remind you that the impetus which eventually led to last year's referendum began almost immediately after the anti-Europe lobby lost the previous referendum on membership of the Common Market (as it then was) back in 1974. The people who are currently telling us Remoaners to quit moaning and accept the result are the same people who spent four decades moaning and refusing to accept that result.

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Ok, so does that mean that even if there is hope of turning this iceberg-bound ship of state around, it's going to take 42 years? Possibly. It doesn't mean it's not worth doing. And besides, whatever article has been triggered, Brexit isn't a done deal. It's literally not a done deal. There is no deal. Not yet. This is just the beginning of (at least) two years of 'negotiations' to establish the precise terms of the UK's extraction (although quite how you're supposed to 'negotiate' when you have nothing to offer the other side escapes me).

That's two years (probably considerably longer) during which we can – and must – make as much of a nuisance of ourselves as possible. Not just in the public forum – pointing out every instance of idiocy and hypocrisy these negotiations throw up (and I imagine there will be a regular supply) but also taking direct political action. Contacting MPs to urge them to resist any attempt to sell out the interests of the British people in order to save face for the government, and shaming those who fail to do so.

If this sounds a bit forlorn and Quixotic, I would draw your attention to recent events in Washington. The destruction of Obamacare should have been a slam dunk. The Republicans have been pledging to repeal the Affordable Care Act since its inception, its repeal was a central prop of President Trump's campaign, and, of course, the Republican Party not only holds the White House but enjoys comfortable majorities in Congress and the Senate. There was no way this wasn't going to happen. But it didn't happen.

The failure of the American Health Care Act (the proposed replacement for Obamacare) has been ascribed to its rejection by the hard-line 'Freedom Caucus' in Congress, for whom nothing short of Let-Poor-People-Die-Where-They-Fall was always going to smack unacceptably of Communism (and while we're here, has any word ever been so abused and distorted as 'freedom' has been these last fifteen years or so?). There's an element of truth in this, but equally significant was the rebellion of a tranche of moderate Republicans, quailing at the prospect of being associated with a bill which had the potential to doom millions of Americans to a lingering death, while cutting taxes for billionaires.

Many of these representatives came to this decision after being subjected to relentless protests, barracking at town hall meetings, constant phone calls and doorstepping at their constituency offices... it would be nice to think that many of them would have done the right thing without the pressure from grass roots protesters and activists, but the fact remains that the pressure was applied and it seems to have worked.

The repeal of Obamacare was a sure thing, and it didn't happen. Brexit is far from a sure thing. Don't stop moaning. And don't just moan; shout.

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