Amid fevered speculation, the only thing that’s certain about Brexit is that no one knows what’s about to happen.
It would be extraordinary theatre if it wasn’t so terrifying, if the economic prospects of this country, people’s jobs and mortgages, were not so much in peril.
Next week, MPs are set to make a historic decision in the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
If she manages to pull off an unexpected victory, the UK economy will leave the European Union in March and, according to the UK Government’s own analysis, our economy will suffer.
If a strange alliance of hard Brexiteers, Remainers, Labour MPs hoping to force a general election, and assorted others votes down May’s plan, then the UK will be heading towards a no-deal Brexit that could cause a recession worse than the 2008 crash – unless a new deal is cobbled together in the few remaining weeks or MPs decide to put our departure from the EU at least on hold.
The stakes are enormous, the sense of uncertainty palpable, and the pressure on MPs – on all side of the debate – immense.
Boris Johnson yesterday described May’s plan as akin to “the kind of diktat that might be imposed on a nation that has suffered a military defeat”; this came after former Bank of England governor Mervyn King, a Brexit supporter, said it would be “madness” to agree to abide by EU laws indefinitely, adding a second referendum was “vital to escape from this continuing nightmare”.
Things have simply not turned out as well as Brexit’s most ardent supporters had hoped and it is hard to see how their original dreams can still be fulfilled. Some seem to be willing to risk a no-deal Brexit but, given the dire warnings from respected economists and the business sector, this would be reckless in the extreme.
There does not appear to be a majority in the Commons for a no-deal Brexit – there does not appear to be a majority for anything at the moment. But, eventually, a majority for something will have to emerge.
Might that strange alliance of disillusioned Brexiteers and Remainers combine again to at least put Brexit on hold, to stave off both May’s “madness” and a no-deal? Perhaps they will both agree on the need for a second referendum, the outcome of which is far from a foregone conclusion.
The only thing that’s certain seems to be that no-one knows what is about to happen. But, whatever it is, the consequences for the nation will be profound.