Looking Sideways At Brexit

Does it matter whether we are in the EU or out of it, or even half-in-half-out?

What is important is the journey more than how we arrive there. I’m a political rationalist (I think) and I’m prepared to listen to all arguments and weigh up the pro’s and cons of both sides and make a ‘rational’ decision based on the evidence writes Jim Masson. 

What we are faced with at the moment is fixated political ideologues carping on about the merits of ‘their’ Brexit or ‘Remain’ journey, saying that theirs the only road we can take. And vice versa, the opposing Remain camp say that journey is going to be too painful. We are truly now at a crossroads.

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May is  under pressure in Westminster from Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn threatening to call a vote of no confidence in the government.

The current debate over the UK government’s management of the Brexit agenda is for some a very hot potato where doom and gloom experts abound on issues from defence, aerospace, telecommunications, environmental standards, human rights, industrial relation, fishing agriculture, trade etc ad finitum.

You’ve all listened to the debate… but underpinning the sense of Brexit Groundhog Day is another political reality which is fundamental to the current impasse which has not had sufficient air time. There is a need to introduce Proportional Representation into the political system in the UK. The current first past the post system has clearly failed in the teeth of the present fiasco over the Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament.

There is a phenomena now of cross cut segmentation where voting is a much more complex activity. It is not simply a question of voting in a two party system ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ (Orwell’s idea, not mine.) For example, voters can be Conservative, Brexit supporters and opposed to a referendum, or they could be Labour supporters, and also Brexit supporters and opposed to a referendum.

The Motion of No Confidence presented in the Commons today in the PM by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who added this was the most “shambolic and chaotic government in British history…” is a milestone on this journey, but to where?  This may make great sound bites for the media, but does little for social stability, business confidence or parliamentary democracy as the debate for the Meaningful Vote is still being denied. Corbyn is now faced with a poker-like reality, he will have to raise the stakes of a no confidence vote in the government to stay in the game. He has to win or he will look ineffective. He now has to invoke the terms of the Fixed Parliament Act and call a vote of no confidence in the government.This will likely come soon with a possible General Election in the making if he wins.

But, with the two main parties looking as though they will experience considerable losers and possible gains, how much will a People’s Vote deliver? It could be once again another narrow, indecisive decision and a further cause of the pathological demise of parliamentary democracy in the UK… where devolution is derailed and the Union is threatened with Scottish separation and Northern Ireland sliding towards a United Ireland via a Border Poll.  Corbyn calls this a “constitutional crisis”.

And in the middle of all of this mess where is the Good Friday Agreement? It has been kicked out of touch. It once was the only show in town but now the ideological underpinnings of the parties are what is all important.

If you examine their fragmented typologies you will see that all of the parties have increasing diverse strands, often dialectically opposed to others in their own ‘party’.

And furthermore, in Northern Ireland, Unionism has never been more divided, and the middle ground nationalist SDLP is stuck in a political cul de sac having lost its parliamentary seats in the last general election and now in the shadow of a more bullish Sinn Féin. The political middle ground has failed to firm up into a challenge to the big two, the DUP and the abstentionsit Sinn Féin. We fundamentally live in a divided society in multiple ways. I think that political re-alignment is much more likely in the UK than in Northern Ireland. But in politics nothing stands still, it just looks that way to some.

Unless PR is eventually adopted, peaceful transition to wherever we decide to go is unlikely. We will be faced with party political warfare through the media and on the soapboxes. We could see considerable social unrest across the UK if the Tories force a hard Brexit through without a People’s Vote.

As a closing swipe at the EU, I’ve always supported the idea of European Integration and would have been happy to stop at a Europe of Nations, not a heavily bureaucratic European state. The Conservative government has failed to awaken this sentiment among the Member States. I could be accused of fomenting nationalism but there are checks and balances in the system I prosit as opposed to what we have now with a dominant EU Parliament and Commission.

But you would not expect turkeys to vote for Christmas, for obvious reasons of self-preservation. Something has to change.

Will Corbyn pull the plug and call for a vote of no confidence? We shall see which road we will be travelling on soon.