In a hundred years’ time, historians may know whether or not Brexit was a good idea. They will write analyses that portray a divided country, one half of it angrily in favour of leaving and the other half fervently in favour of remaining. In the unlikely event that these blogs survive till then, I hope that some historian will look at them and try to tell the story of those – possibly a majority – who didn’t have the first fucking clue what should happen.
This is my 11th blog about Brexit in the past two years. Every 12 weeks or so I return to the subject, and every 12 weeks or so I have a different opinion from any previous blog. If you strung them all together, you would find an impressive array of contradictory views.
Yet I don’t normally have a problem in making up my mind. Nor, having made it up, in sticking with it. I am boringly predictable. So what is it about Brexit that makes me uniquely indecisive?
I think it goes back to having been in two minds which way to vote in the referendum. We know how people voted in 2016, but we don’t know how hard they found it to come to a decision. That would be interesting to know. I suspect there were rather a lot of us in two minds, and that this fact has had quite a lot to do with what has happened since.
In the end, with plenty of misgivings, I voted to remain. I accepted the result with equanimity. I thought, and still do think, that the broad course that the Prime Minister has steered since then has been the only one available to her in the circumstances. I also believe that it is now at a dead end. I had hoped that, as time went by, matters would become clearer, and my own mind would become clearer too. Some hope.
I now believe two things. The first is that the result of the referendum was a disaster and that it should be reversed by any means possible. The second is that we should cut off all negotiations with the EU now and leave next March without a deal.
You will want to know which of those two courses I would prefer, if forced to choose. I don’t know. It depends on which article I last read, or who I last talked to. Sometimes the arguments I hear propel in in the direction their proponents hope and sometimes in the opposite direction, but they do influence me, if only for a moment. This is what I’ve been reduced to. Not, to be fair, to someone who has no opinions of his own, but to someone who has one too many.
The only thing I believe for sure is that the Chequers agreement, or non-agreement as it became a day later, makes no sense at all. It is the worst of both worlds, and about my only consistent view throughout this sorry debacle is that the worst of both worlds is to be avoided.
At the time of writing (an important caveat in anything to do with Brexit), it seems highly doubtful whether even the existing proposal will find a Parliamentary majority. By the time the EU has specified the further concessions required for it to deign to agree to it, there would appear to be no chance at all of a Parliamentary majority. So what is to happen?
I now support a second referendum on the issue, although I doubt that it would change anything, or resolve anything. Given the fact that almost no one (especially the Government) had given a thought to the possibility of a no vote at the time, or considered the practical implications of leaving, there are ample grounds for justifying a second opinion.
However, I also support ending negotiations forthwith and unilaterally announcing a no-deal exit. I support both these things strongly, equally and simultaneously. Now, Mr or Ms Opinion Pollster, how can you frame a question that enables me to give that as an answer?
I do not expect either of these things to happen. I expect everything to drag on until the 11th hour and 59th minute, or beyond, when the choice will be between a dreadful compromise and crashing out. In those circumstances, I would support crashing out. So, the first thing that needs to happen, and which at long last does seem to be happening, is to treat the possibility of a no-deal exit with urgency, and to prepare for it.
If there is a no-deal exit, I do at least know what I would like to happen with the Irish border. Nothing. Just have a requirement for paperwork for cross-border shipments, an online honesty box and some spot checks. Otherwise, forget it. Accept that some revenue will fail to be collected, and hope that it’s not too much, which it probably won’t be. Then leave it to the EU to decide whether it wants to put up border controls on the other side.
In all this mayhem, I am clear about one thing. We normally go to France for the summer at the end of April. Next year, we plan to go in mid-March. And we will happily send food parcels back to our friends.
Oh yes, one more thing. If there is another referendum, I will still vote to remain. Probably.