This will never end…

There has been a cartoon circulating, with a man carrying a “The End is Nigh” placard, and another following him with one labelled “This will never end” and saying “your optimism disgusts me”.

So, a few days ago, I was talking with some people about Brexit (lets face it, there has been virtually no other topic of conversation for the last three years or so), and one of them expressed the opinion I’ve heard many times (and a feeling I’ve shared) “I just want it to be over with” (OK, he followed on with “even if it’s a no deal Brexit”, which is a step I could never have joined him in). At that point I had an awful realisation – and as a result probably completely spoiled his day when I spelled it out.

Everyone knows by now that if Brexit is cancelled for some reason, the Tory Brexiteers and all the UKIP crowd (most of whom have been being fairly quiet recently) will be up in arms, and immediately pressing for a new Brexit. To listen to some of them, I would not rule out violence. They may or may not still have the support of the 52% who voted for Brexit in the first place – personally I think a sizeable proportion of those would heave a sigh of relief and accept the position, but there are enough hard-line Brexiteers around that we would not hear the end of it in my lifetime. Let’s face it, I innocently thought when I voted to stay in Europe in 1975 that that was a final decision (and I ask whether “the people have spoken” doesn’t still apply to that vote…)

The thing is, if Brexit does happen, much the same thing will be the case – except it’ll be (at least in part) people wanting us to rejoin the EU.

48% of those who voted, in particular, will be somewhere between annoyed and furious, depending on the type of Brexit involved, but that’s not all. A sizeable number of those very embarrassed people who didn’t vote “because it was a foregone conclusion and we wouldn’t be leaving” will join them.And so will all those who wanted a different kind of Brexit. None of the “soft Brexit” options, ranging from a “Norway” type deal, accepting pretty much all the EU rules (including free movement of labour) and pretty substantial payments to the EU into the bargain, through to a mere Customs Union, will satisfy the hard Brexiteers. In fact, their argument that “we might as well stay in the EU” if we have even as much as a customs union is fairly accurate – we’d have most of the regulation, but without having any say in its creation. Jacob Rees-Mogg characterised that as being a “slave nation”. That may well persuade many who thought it a good idea to try to be “semi-detached” that, well, we might as well be full members again. After all, there can’t be much more of a “democratic deficit” than having no say at all in the rules…

If there were, God forbid, a hard Brexit, all of those who were against it in the first place plus all of those hurting because of the huge damage it would do to us (not least, in all probability, food shortages) would be even more furious than the Brexiteers would be were we not to leave at all. There would be a huge push to rejoin… but how long would that take? The EU’s starting position would be for us to accept all the EU’s mechanisms and rules (we have a lot of derogations from those as things stand), including the single currency (and also making the House of Lords fully democratic, though that might not be so much of a problem). And an increased contribution to the budget, of course. Negotiating against that background could take many years.

And then the Brexiteers would be at it again…

That is, of course, assuming that the country were still governable following a hard Brexit, which I think is far from certain.

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