JUST when you thought the purgatory couldn’t go on any longer, here’s news to make you want to go and live in Canada. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has asked the European Union to delay Brexit until the end of June.
Clearly, this request, which must gain the approval of EU leaders meeting in Brussels today, is an attempt to buy more time – but for what?
Here goes the hopeful narrative. The plan is that over the course of the next three months, Mrs May will finally secure Parliamentary approval for her Withdrawal Agreement.
In addition, this extension gives her the opportunity to gain concessions from other European leaders for favourable treatment on trade deals and so on following our eventual departure.
Also, it effectively crosses out the possibility of a second referendum and diminishes justification from those on the Opposition benches calling for a general election.
However, it is clear that Mrs May has been backed into a corner by the Parliament rules and regulations by which she must abide.
Inherently, the Cabinet was forced into this latest action by the Speaker John Bercow’s bombastic decision to stamp out any possibility of a third vote in the Commons which would perhaps – but not necessarily – have reached a binding Commons decision over her proposed deal in time for the original deadline of March 29. Yet, while this extension should allow the Prime Minister three months, there is no clarity on the next steps if no Commons consensus can be reached by then. She is clinging onto the hope that Brexiteers will realise that the only way to guarantee Britain’s EU exit is to back her, otherwise the purgatory could be extended indefinitely.
What a situation. When the history books come to be written, it will be seen that the entire Brexit process was flawed from the off. Instead of accepting that the country was split straight down the middle and working up a compromise from that point, the whole process has stuck obdurately to the black and white result of the June 2016 referendum.
This was never going to make for easy negotiation. Time and again, it has pitted Remain-leaning MPs against Leave-supporting constituents, contributing to the crisis of confidence which has left the Government shaken to its core and the country cast adrift from its politicians.
While Mrs May shuttled back and forth to Brussels, no other senior figure has stepped up to the plate and credibly taken on the role of reassuring voters. Instead, those who put their cross in the box to set the whole process in motion have been left behind and let down by politicians who have seized on the result as a chance to grab a slice of power for themselves.
Meanwhile, we are obliged to go about our business trying not to worry about whether to stockpile food in case a ‘‘hard’’ Brexit leaves our supermarket shelves bare. What’s more, countless European-born British residents who have made their homes here for years have been forced to undergo humiliating tests to prove their right to remain.
And then there is the stultifying effect on the economy which has seen all businesses lacking credible guidance about how they might survive in a future of UK independence.
As citizens, we have had no choice but to put our faith in our Prime Minister and Government to deliver the best possible Brexit outcome for our country.
So far, they have failed. Although much of the blame is thrown at the door of No 10 and Mrs May personally, this is unwarranted. No-one could argue that she has conducted all negotiations with aplomb, but anyone who expected perfection in such a complex set of scenarios would be foolish.
After all, there used to be a thing called ‘‘collective Cabinet responsibility’’ in which all senior members of a government agreed to put aside individual differences for the good of the country. This has evaporated and in its place is dissent and disorder which has done the Prime Minister no favours at all. She has suffered from bad advice and endured self-seeking senior colleagues who have undermined her every attempt to proceed through the minefield.
I don’t agree with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on much, but I must say he is right on this one. In what might just turn into his most memorable words ever, he says that the handling of Brexit is the biggest failure of British statecraft since the Suez Crisis.
And now our reputation abroad is in tatters. Not only do European leaders regard us as shambolic, but we now have President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jnr, weighing in from America to inform us that British democracy is “all but dead”.
However, it is what is happening at home that should concern everyone the most. If all MPs really care about the country they are paid to represent and serve, they will pull together and put the people first – at last.