“They haven’t a clue,” the nameless senior civil servant told me as she pressed her hands to the side of her head, grimaced and squeezed her eyes shut.”
We were talking outside a South London railway station where I was collecting signatures for a petition to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
Prime Minister Theresa May refuses to say they can continue to stay and work in the UK. She says she needs these 3.5 million human lives—five percent of the population of the UK—as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit talks with the EU.
But I digress, back to my rail travelling civil servant who has been left standing on a chilly pavement shaking her head. “Please,” she implored, “don’t use my name. I need to hold onto my job when the economy goes down the plug hole.
“But I can tell you that the Three Brexiteers are running around like headless chickens. They didn’t have a clue or plan before the referendum vote and they have even less of one now. They are taking us straight off the cliff.”
The three Brexiteers referred to are Boris Johnson, former London Mayor, wannabe prime minister and now Foreign Secretary; David Davis, Secretary of State responsible for exiting the EU and Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Trade. These three men were leading leave campaigners. They have been put in charge of Brexit negotiations based on the pottery shopkeeper’s sales policy of–“You broke it. You own it.”
Actually, the Three Brexiteers should be dubbed the Three Brexiteers plus one, because, as in the original Alexander Dumas novel, there are four swashbuckling characters let loose on the general population. The fourth is Theresa May herself who has taken on the role of chairperson of the Brexit committee and is flitting from European capital to European capital discovering just how much she and her gang are despised.
The ‘Three Brexiteers’ Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis
Mrs May is determined to push Brexit through as quickly as possible. To be more precise she wants to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March. After that there is no turning back. On top of that, Mrs May is refusing to allow the British Parliament a vote on the issue.
Why the rush if—as my senior civil servant claims—the government has no idea of where it is going or how to get there once Article 50 is invoked?
Because, the country remains bitterly divided over Brexit.
Mrs May is dragging the UK to the point of no return in the hope that when the option of a reversal is removed, the country and—let us be honest, her conservative party –can start to heal.
Opposed to her are about half of her own backbench MPs and at least 48 percent of the population who vary between slowing down the process to allow time to develop a proper strategy and wanting to reverse it altogether.
Their big hope is a legal case wending its way through the British courts. It is brought by businesswoman Gina Miller who says that the British government must have parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50 and starting the formal exit process.
Theresa May says not so. There is something called the Royal Prerogative which gives the monarch—through the government—the right to negotiate foreign treaties without reference to parliament. The counter argument is that 43 years’ membership of the European Club has resulted in hundreds of laws affecting the rights and obligations of British citizens
The EU Treaty which the government plans to repeal is more than just an agreement between one state and another. Its volumes of legal codicils have become an integral part of the unwritten British constitution, or so argue Ms Miller’s lawyers at the top legal firm of Mishcon de Reya.
The case has only just started in the lower courts, but dockets have been cleared all the way to the British Supreme Court where it is expected to be heard some time in December or January.
The government would probably win a vote confirming the Brexit referendum, but with a raft of amendments that would expose the Brexiteers not only as headless chickens but as imperial attendants without clothes.
Tom Arms is a broadcaster and columnist focused on world affairs. His regular wold affairs podcast can be heard at www.lookaheadnews.com. He is also available for lectures and speaking engagements.
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