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George Smid: Just get on with Brexit
10 Jun, 2018

George_Smid.jpgThere is a ‘Brexit fatigue’ malady going around the land. It is affecting Leavers and Remainers alike. The disorder disturbs the mind – whenever the affected person sees, hears or reads anything about Brexit (which is every day) he or she exclaims “for God’s sake get on with it’ – and don’t bother me anymore.

To deal with this disorder is simple. When ‘get on with it’ is exclaimed, a question ‘get on with what?’ should bring the person down to earth. Because, less then 300 days to the intended departure from the EU (29 March 2019) nobody knows what Brexit means. Not knowing what ‘it’ is, we cannot get on with ‘it’.

The cabinet is split into two working groups to evaluate two conflicting scenarios. Neither the government, nor the opposition parties are able to say what ‘getting on with it’ means. Brexit simply means too many things to too many people.

For Brexit supporters, Brexit is the answer to their frustration with NHS, housing, schooling and declining living standards; for some Brexit is the vehicle of their ambitions.

For Brexit refuseniks Brexit is a danger to NHS, social provisions and already causing further decline of living standards — detrimental to exactly the things Brexit was supposed to fix.

For at least one person Brexit means brightly painted ‘Dumbo Jet’ for personal use.

Brexit is, already, diminishing the control of our money (devaluation), control of our laws (Parliament replaced by executive orders) and losing control of our borders (see the proposals for the UK to open its border with no control). This cannot be dismissed as ‘project fear’; this is ‘project real’, it has happened.

The government, the Parliament, the country, the families are divided about the wisdom of Brexit and about the cost and benefits of leaving the EU.

Gone are the simple days of soft Brexit, hard Brexit, no deal Brexit. These days we discuss nitty gritty of custom arrangements, Good Friday agreement, Euratom, Galileo, access to medicals, repatriating criminals, security, supply chains … And we cannot make up our mind on any of these.

Bizarrely, the more complicated issue, the less time allowed – the Withdrawal Bill presented to Parliament has only two days allocated. Talking now about Parliament taking back control is farcical.

We are led by a government which dodges the difficult choices and it is not honest with us.

We know the easiest trade deal in history is not going to happen. But we do not know which trade deal, if any, is going to happen.

We know the UK will be paying £40 billion by October. But we do not know what deal this payment is supposed to secure.

This is hard to accept. Not knowing what Brexit means leads to more divisions.

Is there a way out of this schizophrenic attitude? Can we reconcile Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Can we treat this collective identity disorder? If unity is strength will we fall divided?

We might fall, but we don’t have to. We can come together. How? We need to understand ‘the other half’. We need to build a consensus.

There is some consensus building up. Over three quarters of the MPs know Brexit is the folly of our life but are afraid to say so. Instead, they are looking for a compromise. The problem with a compromise is that it satisfies nobody. For Leavers the UK will become ‘a vassal’, for Remainers the UK will lose too much.

Without a compromise, can we still unite? Yes, we can. To come together we have to learn first to accept each other’s positions. The Remainers must understand why Brexiters voted to leave the EU. The Leavers must acknowledge the ‘decisive majority’ was a swing vote of the size of roughly the population of Glasgow or Liverpool, and hence there is no wide-ranging consent.

The Government’s duty is to state which compromise, which deal is on offer. The Leavers and the Remainers then unite in their fight to get a vote on the deal.

The question of the vote, in Parliament or in a referendum, will be simple: Do you wish to leave the EU with the deal this Government negotiated or do you wish to stay in the EU?

Leavers and Remainers will evaluate that question according to their own concept of ‘the best deal for Britain’. And vote accordingly. The result of such a vote would be informed and binding. We could then, indeed, ‘get on with it’.

‘To get on with it’ Leavers and Remainers should unite and join the march for a final Brexit vote on 23 June 2018 in London. The European Movement is organising trips from East Midlands with various meeting points in London. If you can, please do come.

George Smid is Chair of East Midlands European Movement and has a regular column in the Lincolnshire Reporter. He Tweets as George Smid

Originally published in the Lincolnshire Reporter on 7 June 2018.