For those of you who like me have followed the political twists and turns throughout the extended saga of Brexit with interest, trepidation and outright despair I am sure you feel as I do that it can not nearly be all over. There must be one last play? A last throw of the dice, a final swan song for the Remainers to deliver?
We have watched the last four years in a state of apoplexy, often wondering which rule will be torn-up next, which ancient dictate will be put before our eyes and of course which political leaders would be around at the end to wallow in the glory!
The Brexit vote on 23rd June 2016 surprised most British residents and probably nearly all European residents.
It appeared to many in Europe as impossible, illogical, sacrilegious even but in the UK, there had been a steady and consistent growth in opposition to the EU since we had joined back on 1st January 1973. Through the Thatcher years, the membership was regularly challenged and criticised, with the culmination of the ERM disaster on Black Wednesday. The project recovered during the Blair/Brown years with Tony Blair putting the UK firmly in the centre of the EU. With Cameron taking on the reigns, he demonstrated a firm commitment to the EU. But as Cameron’s backbenchers started to shift towards the newly formed UKIP organisation he was under pressure to silence the critics. He promised a referendum if the public voted him back in and the British public delivered, as did he. The decision saw his demise along with those of campaigners in other parties.
Boris had chosen the right side. His political ambition was suddenly obvious Frankenstein’s Monster was on the trail.
Comrade One had done little to oppose the decision to leave – his previous comments suggested that he wanted to even if his party did not. Theresa the Bruce had won the leadership battle and she was so confident of her position she threw away some of her safety with a misguided election, her majority now very tight. Furthermore, the election imbedded many MPs into positions on Brexit that their constituents opposed. The scene was set for chaos – all the pieces were in place.
We soon started to see, legal challenge, followed by legal challenge, votes lost in parliament, vocal voices in the media and on the streets outside the sacred house of democracy. The sides were clearly defined. Families clashed within themselves and each other, political parties ripped themselves apart, new parties appeared and, old parties destroyed. For some time there appeared to be a government in power that neither carried the support of the parliament or the people. The oldest democracy in the world hung by a thread. The Bruce finally had to give in and, a fully committed Brexiteer took the reins. Boris flew into the position of Prime Minister with ease and had lost seven votes in the commons before he managed to win one. He did not care he strode on delivering yet another general election – winning with a massively improved majority along with a mandate and a parliament voted in on the promise to deliver Brexit. This, it dutifully did with the UK leaving the EU at 23:00 on 31st January 2020 (surely the use of the European time to determine the time of departure probably still sits in Brexiteer’s mouths as a final foul taste of the whole European experience).
That though was not the end, and I have got that Déjà vu feeling in my stomach once again. 2020 has been dominated by the unprecedented Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, COVID-19 has not extended the transition period and does not at present look like doing so.
There is no doubt that Boris’ position has weakened because of how his government tackled the new crisis. His backbenchers have also questioned the governments’ performance. There is however no evidence to suggest that they have changed their mind on Brexit and although he has come under pressure for his position shift regarding the Irish border from many fronts including ex-prime ministers and American politicians, it does not appear to have been sufficient to topple him. Kier Starmer is proving to be a promising opponent to the now beleaguered Boris. Unfortunately, Starmer’s rise comes too late to make any inroads on the Brexit debate.
It, therefore, appears that with only three months remaining until the end of the transition period, it is likely that in the absence of a truly catastrophic event, Brexit will happen on the 1st January 2021. I have learnt during this process however not to assume that the game is over, maybe, just maybe, the Remainers have that one last card to play that may surprise us all.