What is happening in the UK in 2019 is the opposite of the old Greek proverb, ‘a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in’. The golden generation, who grew fat on an unparalleled era of growth and peace, are playing out their Dresden pyromaniacal fantasies on civil servants of Brussels and Strasbourg in the last days before their nation is handed over to their transgender Fortnite-streamer grandchildren.
In 2016 the UK voted to leave a trade union. There was no War Committee; largely working-class people decided, not unfairly, that the free market project of the European Union didn’t feature in their political plans. For all the talk of ‘crushing the saboteurs’ and ‘remoaners’, the anti-Brexit opposition haven’t really made any progress beyond a petition and that irritating guy who stands outside Parliament screaming #FBPE slogans at the Sky News cameras. Brexit has only been stifled by its most ardent supporters, who have been wheezing on a geriatric death march ever since it’s been made clear that Ireland exists and we can’t just disregard them like it’s the 17th century.
The pathological desire for an ultra-hard Brexit isn’t about signing new trade deals with India and China nor about fisheries: it’s just a petulant jab at the rest of Europe, whom we rightfully rule-over as the sole victors of the war (the Soviet role has been erased, ironically in NKVD fashion). It’s unpleasant to realise that many British people see the thriving of Europe, from the Balkans to Germany, as a bitter blow rather than a miracle. Whereas Germany’s and France’s imperial impulses have been integrated into moulding a monolithic European block to their design, Britain’s only seeks to tear it down.
Leaving the European Union undoubtedly pilfers huge political power from Brussels to Westminster. This could lend itself to a government capable of quickly filling the societal potholes left ignored for 40 years of unchecked neoliberalism, or the most destructive act of modern British history, depending on who wields it. At the moment it points to the latter, but we surely can’t make it another six months without a general election?
No deal Brexit is currently winning, leading the polls on 48%. Geoffrey Boycott went on Good Morning Britain and had his Churchill moment; Nigel Farage is walking out on stage to Macklemore; Boris is talking buses again. It’s all terrific fun if you don’t think too hard about it for too long, but sure enough the birds will come home to roost and we will wake up with a pounding head wondering where all the fire-retardant cushion regulations went.
In a week where European Parliament saw ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ banners and UKIP turning their backs to Ode to Joy, it’s important to remember that chest-beating rhetoric has a short shelf-life. In the long-run, a with a new Parliament, there will be a Parliamentary and popular majority for a softish Brexit that actually acknowledges the other side of the English Channel.
It may not be the most convincing position we’re standing in, but we can enjoy watching the Tories commit Seppuku regardless. Sooner or later, the Boris train will reach the platform and the passengers will eat him alive when they see he doesn’t have what he promised. The right getting what they want, when what they want closer to a primordial scream than a set of polices, is the only sure way to invalidate them for generations to come.