JUST WORDS: Fake Brexit and fractured Britain

02 December, 2018 | Posted By: Charlie Charalambous

Observing the Brexit shambles from afar, Cypriots can empathise with the British people who said ‘No’ to the EU and thought Britain could just walk away from the club to a bright new free-trade future without consequences.

The argument seems to be that the British people voted to leave the European Union and there is no going back because that is how democracy works.

Some 17 million of the British electorate voted to cut ties with Brussels and uncouple itself from the EU gravy train. End of story.

Nobody is allowed to have a second chance at resolving this Brexit nonsense otherwise it would make a mockery of referendums as the people have spoken. This is the straight-bat defence of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

But the Brexiteers argue as if the 2016 vote was a landslide of public disaffection with the EU. Some 51.9% (17.4 million) of the UK electorate voted Leave but a solid 48.1% (16.1 million) voted Remain and I’m sure the leavers didn’t envisage the outcome the country is now faced with.

Northern Ireland voted remain but could be left isolated in EU limbo to avoid a hard border appearing with the Republic of Ireland – there’s a backstop to ensure the hinges won’t come off but there is no satisfactory outcome.

Another part of the United Kingdom that is looking to breakaway is Scotland which also voted to remain and wants to stay within the European family rather than the British Isles.

There appear to be several bad options open to the British government with no clear Yellow Brick Road leading out of EU membership.

Amid the divisive politics of EU disengagement – one thing is abundantly clear, there won’t actually be a clean Brexit – it will be a kind of muted Brexit where Britain is in a customs arrangement with Europe and bound by its regulations but have no real voice.

There was also the bizarre position of the government this week which admitted that any Brexit deal would be worse than staying in the 28-member bloc, but people had to swallow being poorer off as there was no other alternative.

Theresa May is adamant she got the best deal she could from her understanding European partners – who will inevitably play hardball over the future relationship.

Britain could avoid a painful divorce if it decided to fall in love with Europe again, but marriage counselling has been a victim of the hostile debate.

The British PM is travelling the country to persuade people that her deal keeps the UK closer to Europe – which the majority did not vote for – there is no alternative Plan B – which the silent majority is crying out for and a no deal is not on the table – an option crusaders in her party are striving for.

Essentially, May is a remainer on a mission to convince the electorate that her middle way is the best of a bad lot and everyone should just knuckle down and get aboard the Brexit bus with destination unknown.

Adding more layers of confusion to the issue is May spoiling for a fight in the TV studio with leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn.

She wants to go toe-toe with the labour leader to prove her case, although Jeremy isn’t interested in Brexit, he just wants to trigger a general election and get into power.

Bizarrely, May wants to appeal to an audience that has no say in the matter as the deal is up for a vote in parliament on 11 December.

Moreover, she will only take part in a TV debate against Corbyn, not any hard Brexiter, such as Boris Johnson, or any campaigner for a second referendum, saying it is no longer about a leave v remain argument.

Critics argue the need for a wide spectrum of views in the debate, not two people who neither have strong views on Brexit or want a second referendum.

The British government says it doesn’t want to betray the people who voted for Brexit – that horse has bolted.

And why are 16 million people who voted the other way irrelevant to the argument? There is evidence to suggest their number has grown since 2016.

May says her form of Brexit is in the national interest and it protects jobs and livelihoods, but arguably staying in the bloc would do the same job without leaving Northern Ireland and Scotland in the lurch.

She famously said that “Brexit means Brexit” but nobody really knows what it means anymore.

And if MPs in the House of Commons reject the agreement it could see the world’s fifth-largest economy parting the bloc without a deal, or not leaving at all.

So much for a decisive referendum allowing democracy to shine the way forward through people power.

Cypriots know only too well about the fallout from future-changing referendums and like the Brexit debate they may be called on to do it all again a second time around – either way there will be recriminations.

Democracy can suck sometimes.