By Nathan Kelly
After the Chequers cabinet agreement, David Davis still held a cabinet post in the Department for Exiting the European Union; a post which allowed him a chauffeur driven car home. Perhaps upon this journey from Buckinghamshire back to his home, Davis had already decided that enough was enough: May’s Brexit plan was a betrayal- a stab in the back to 17.4 million people and the two years of work he had put into this plan. Alas, regardless of Davis’ thoughts on the journey home, the politician was level-headed enough to move away from a rash decision, instead spending Sunday at Silverstone. As he watched the two crashes which occurred that day, perhaps Davis thought of what he could achieve if he – metaphorically – crashed into May, perhaps he thought he saw a metaphor for the country: crashing into a soft Brexit.
Both Davis’ and Johnson’s letters were laden with criticism but light on alternative proposals.
Whatever went through Davis’ mind, and we can only ever speculate in the vaguest terms, as of midnight upon Sunday, he was gone. Out in the wilderness of the back benches Davis would sit – a social-climber leaving the soft-Brexiteers of the Cabinet for the idealist hard-liners of the European Research Group.
Soon thereafter, fearing that Davis had made a better career move than himself, Boris Johnson – a source of national pride – joined Davis on the backbenches with a withering resignation letter. The contents, hastily written but still well crafted, complained that May’s Chequers plan would leave the UK as a colony of the EU – a line which will reassure the commonwealth that senior British politicians do understand the legacy of empire sufficiently. Absent, however, was a plan. Both Davis’ and Johnson’s letters were laden with criticism but light on alternative proposals.
Johnson’s headline-making statement was a devasting critique of May’s Brexit plans, so he thought: “[the] dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”. He lamented a dying Britain’s failure to fully grapple with the opportunities Brexit brought, instead Britain remained cowering under the umbrella of the EU, rather than running through the storm alone, to a brighter, better home.
Johnson and all Brexiteers alike fail now, as they have done since Vote Leave was conceived, in offering any sort of plan as to how we achieve the wonderful Brexit they promised us. Rather, it is the fault of remoaners that a utopian-Brexit cannot be delivered, their self-doubt that has dragged the country down this path. This is absurd.
Realpolitik reared its inconvenient and ugly head in one location that Brexiteers never thought to worry: the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Brexiteers were asked about the border during the referendum. For example, Penny Mordaunt – current Secretary of State for International Development whose achievements in the post escape me – when asked about the prospect of a hard border on Newsnight dismissed the problem as something which had a whole raft of solutions and could be negotiated easily.
It is true, of course, that a solution could be negotiated between the UK and the EU regarding the Irish border, the only problem is that this is incompatible with the Brexiteer dreams that Johnson et al. still cling onto – read: a trade deal with the USA.
Sovereignty in trade deals, the Belfast agreement, a border in Ireland: an inconsistent triad- three propositions which cannot all be true simultaneously. If we are to have sovereign trade deals then we require a border to ensure goods have agreed tariffs applied, also ensuring goods do not enter our country simply to leave into the EU in order to avoid paying their tariff. However, a border means the Belfast agreement can no longer hold true, a violation of the agreement’s rules. Further scenarios could be explained, but it’s straightforward as to which propositions violate the other’s validity.
Now, out of character, praise must be offered to Daniel Hannan. The only Brexiteer to offer a solution to the Irish question, and a most elegant one at that: get rid of the Belfast agreement. Whilst Mr Hannan does appear to delight in the prospect of breaking up harmonious agreements between countries, perhaps an agreement made specifically to end sectarian violence exists for a reason and can’t be disregarded so easily.
Hence, we turn to the rest of the Brexiteers. At this point, however, we have to admit it: Brexiteers have an intellectual vacuum problem. Beyond vague phrases such as ‘technology’ and ‘Switzerland’ no Brexiteer has ever offered a plan which can solve the problem of the Irish border and achieve the Brexit dreams which they desire. May solved the border problem but was required to sacrifice the dream to, well, reality.
Neither Johnson nor Davis’ letters contained a slither of a plan because they don’t have one; no Brexiteer does. They cling to a dream with no means to arrive at it.
Brexiteers have an intellectual vacuum problem.
Let us suppose that in Plato’s world of the forms there exists objects which include the ideal cat, ideal apple and ideal budget hotel, along with said objects there is the ideal Brexit. Any AS-level philosophy student will be able to tell you that all is required for man to escape the cave and see the beauty of the forms, and the truth, is for that man to become a philosopher and the truth will grace him with its presence.
How then do we reach the ideal form of Brexit? Maybe become philosophers. Maybe we can’t reach it and will remain shackled in the cave by EU red tape. Or maybe we keep on dreaming. That seems to be the Brexiteers’ plan, anyway.
Photograph David Holt via Flickr