Why getting Brexit done won’t calm the current political storm – Bill Jamieson

Done deal? Current political storm may take time to pass (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty)
Done deal? Current political storm may take time to pass (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty)
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A Brexit deal is unlikely to mean a return to ‘normal’ politics soon with furious recriminations, leadership battles and a push for a second independence referendum all on the cards, writes Bill Jamieson.

Who recalls what life was like before the three-year Brexit onslaught of “crisis deadline looms” and “crunch week ahead”? What was ‘normal’ politics like? And do we really want it back?

In the next 72 hours, we may finally have hit the eye of the Brexit storm: a deal, or something presented as a deal, accompanied by an exhausted celebration over a final text and a draining trial endured.

And then, will normality return? Or will there be second thoughts? Doubts? Confusions? Ambiguities? We are now at a crossroads.

I do not believe that we will return to status quo ante. A bigger political genie has come out of the bottle, and it will prove to be wholly for the good with many of our institutions and the status quo subject to long-needed change.

Too optimistic by half? It looks immediately so. It has been the custom of EU negotiations to end in early morning, ‘last-minute’ deals where verbal ambiguity has been raised to a fine art. If this is repeated, we will move soon into claim and counterclaim, the politics of loopholes overlooked and meanings disputed.

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Only this time around we move swiftly into an election launched in recrimination and descending into a furious, unsparing Vengeance: a Washing of The Brexit Spears.

For the entire Brexit saga has bitterly divided the country, shattered the domination of the two-party system, provoked a constitutional crisis and brought basic ideas of executive government into question: a parliament prorogued, then a Supreme Court intervention and a Prime Minister held in political house arrest.

Worse than Theresa May’s deal?

In Downing Street, the hope this week is that a relieved and grateful electorate will return Boris Johnson with a working majority over a shrunken Remainer parliament.

But Remainers will continue to press for a confirmatory referendum. They will seize on every piece of bad economic news as evidence of an unfolding Brexit catastrophe.

The Brexit Party, smelling a sell-out, will hound Conservative rebels whose opposition, they claim, turned the final negotiations in Brussels into a surrender deal (see below). What is now on offer will be held as worse than Theresa May’s thrice-defeated deal.

Without some sort of accommodation with the Brexit Party, Tory seats could fall and Labour emerge holding the balance of power. Here in Scotland, an emboldened SNP, bitterly opposed to Brexit of any sort, and buoyed by opinion poll support, will press Westminster for a second independence referendum.

Scots, goes the narrative, have been dragged into a national catastrophe of the Conservatives’ making. The Liberal Democrats will rally round the standard of Remain, whatever the outcome of any second EU referendum poll.

And Labour? It is at sixes and sevens. A bloodthirsty leadership battle is likely to follow any defeat and a battle for supremacy even if Jeremy Corbyn wins.

There will be calmer times, but not yet awhile.