I am often confronted with the line of argument that because something or other may or may not happen sometime into the foggy future, opposing Brexit is hopeless now. A Twitter conversation with Rachel Heyburn and A C Grayling this morning was a case in point.
Now I am always someone who wants a plan. A way forward. A kind of destination. Some sort of desirable goal to aim for.
The problem is that in the whole pre-Article 50 Brexit game there is nothing like that in sight. Even staying in the EU is not an option while everything else stays as it is, because Brexit in general and May’s government in particular have poisoned UK-EU relations so much. Hoping for a more sensible government to emerge also looks forlorn with the Tories at 42% in the polls and Labour flailing about hopelessly under Corbyn.
So what should anyone still convinced by the idiocy of Brexit do?
Oppose, pure and simple. And see what happens.
The Article 50 / Miller case, as it dealt with devolved matters in the Supreme Court, could make starting the exit procedure in spring 2017 impossible. Jolyon Maugham has a further crowd justice campaign on the go – to test the reversibility of Article 50. Keir Starmer has 170 questions about Brexit that he thinks the government should answer, and he has managed to get the government to commit to produce a Brexit plan – but what happens if the content of that plan is inadequate? Plus the only vote in Parliament on Brexit so far showed some opposition building. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement signalled a marked worsening of the government’s balance sheet, with extra borrowing attributed to the consequences of Brexit. The Lib Dems managed to win Richmond Park by putting opposition to Brexit front and central. The House of Lords is demanding a clear plan for an interim Brexit deal – what happens if the government’s promised plan does not contain this?
Months ago Simon Usherwood sarcastically coined his “rule of Brexit” – that the more you think about it, the more complex it gets. Nothing that has happened since 24th June makes me thing any different. I cannot begin to sequence Article 50 trigger / interim deal (or not) / deal blocked (or not) / UK government collapses (or not) / new elections (or not) / UK party leader(s) change (or not), and I would defy anyone to make solid predictions about how all of the currently outstanding Brexit questions are going to be answered. The UK government has not got any solid answers to these issues either – as has become painfully clear over the last couple of months.
And before anyone whines at me that any of this is anti-democratic – did the likes of Farage or Redwood stop to think that their EU-scepticism was anti-democratic because of the 1975 referendum? No. To point out the consequences of Brexit, to make Brexit harder to deliver, to make sure the legal procedures are respected, to Brexit less socially and economically damaging to the UK and to the EU are vital and noble causes. If Brexit is a cause worth fighting for all Leave voters ought to have good responses to all of the hurdles raised.
I still stick to my baseline assumption that Brexit ultimately is not going to happen (and bookies have slashed the odds on that too), but that it will require a second referendum. But the route to there from where we are now is too complicated and multi-faceted for anyone to predict. Faced with that the only option is to oppose, oppose and oppose any moves towards Brexit and hold on for the bumpy ride.