Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Two weeks ago, the United Kingdom was supposed to leave the European Union. As we welcome the arrival of summer, let us end the deadlock and make a clean break.
As the glorious rays of sunshine climb the clear April sky heralding the approaching summer, the mind gravitates towards a serene reminiscence of venerable seasons past. From those rare, welcome moments of collective patriotic celebration when England’s football team carried the nation to their first World Cup semi-finals in thirty years, to junctures of defiant sorrow after the Manchester Arena bombing that drew stars from around the globe, the United Kingdom thrives in summer. This nation has never shied away from a challenge during the season of, in the words of Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The Wind, ‘the scorching promise of a noon of glaring blue sky and pitiless bronze sun’.
But 2019 will diverge from this proud history as our nation, the home of Winston Churchill and William Wilberforce, is plunged into a social and political crisis. After three failed attempts to pass her painfully negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, the career of Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead since 1997, co-founder of Women2Win (which campaigns for greater representation in Parliament), and former Home Secretary who secured the deportation of radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza, is left in tatters.
The House of Commons has rejected any alternative path to advance the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, including a World Trade Organisation exit, customs union membership, Canada-style free trade agreement or Norway model. As MPs fail to achieve consensus, voices on the extremes of British politics dangerously dominate the country’s narrative and simultaneously alienate voters. Tony Blair, the man who, in a sinister parody of Blackadder’s General Melchett, spearheaded the Iraq War causing the deaths of 179 British military service personnel, has reared his ugly head again to fund the People’s Vote campaign. Thousands of far-right activists have marched on London behind their modern day Enoch Powell, Tommy Robinson, burning EU flags in their wake. Remainer MP Anna Soubry (pictured below) is persistently harassed on her way to Parliament while the young children of Leaver Jacob Rees-Mogg are told that their father is a ‘horrible person’ on their walk to school.
In the week that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested a year-long extension to Article 50 to allow us time to debate the future direction of the UK’s departure from the EU, residents of Harold Hill in east London have started their own street patrols to reduce the risk of another fatal teenage stabbing in the wake of the death of Jodie Chesney, and councils up and down England have been accused of profiteering from the homelessness crisis. We are a distracted nation. Those who want to extend the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are continuing to neglect the social crises facing this island. Those who are calling for a second referendum are implicitly prolonging the housing crisis, wage strain, and cuts to education.
To address this nation’s chronic illnesses, our politicians must first enact the UK’s EU withdrawal, as the people demanded nearly three summers ago. To those who suggest that politicians revoke Article 50 and forget about Brexit in a single afternoon, I ask – why do you demand that we replace democracy with a ‘we-know-best’ class of elite politicians? To those who request a second referendum, I ask – why do you expect everyone else to have changed their mind since 2016, while your impenetrable, infallible ego has been right all along?
In February 2017, MPs voted by a majority of 384 to trigger Article 50 which meant that the UK would leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with or without a deal. Our representatives understood that the government would spend two years negotiating a withdrawal agreement, and if the result was not satisfactory, then we would leave on the default WTO terms. The ‘no deal’ option was kept on the table for the duration of these negotiations because MPs understood that if the recourse of walking away were to be revoked, negotiators on the other side of the channel would take reasonable advantage of our handicap. What changed? Theresa May, embroiled in a parliamentary game of snakes and ladders in which there is one ladder and six hundred and fifty snakes, has been undermined to the climax of being manipulated into falling on her sword, and missing. Prolonging this process will be painful; our nation cannot take more dithering and delay. Self-serving members of the Commons have agreed only on their inability to agree. It is time to say enough, and for Theresa May to fulfill her promise to the people by taking the UK out of the EU without a deal.
The implementation of the structures of the European Union have been, and remain, disastrous and close-minded. The narrative that Brexiteers are all middle-aged, slightly racist white males who demand the erection of figurative walls to block globalisation is offensive. In fact, the reality is in direct opposition with these assumptions – for decades, the EU has imposed brutally stiff tariffs on African agricultural imports rendering it impossible for Africa to trade itself out of poverty. The pillars of the single market have compelled the UK to turn its back on the Commonwealth. The ideological starving of poorer nations by the EU will place it on the wrong side of history, and it is high time that the sun sets, for good, on the European Project. This summer, the season described by E. B. White in Charlotte’s Web as ‘the most beautiful days in the whole year’, let the English sun ripple across the warm sky of an independent nation as we herald the inception of a truly Great British future, and embrace the sense of Brexit.