So, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country run by zombies. Jeremy Corbyn got at least one thing right about Brexit as he tried, but failed, to remove Theresa May from office.
At a time when we need our government to act decisively, official policy seems to be one of inaction; with the only response to the biggest government defeat in British political history to press ahead with much the same plan.
And, last night, the response of MPs to the rapidly escalating crisis was to express their confidence in this undead administration, a government unable to perform its basic function: to govern. These are most surreal times.
May’s strategy appears to be to hope that alarm over this country’s drift towards the dangerous prospect of a no-deal Brexit builds to the point that enough MPs are panicked into backing her, fearing the resulting economic turmoil.
Had Tuesday night’s “meaningful vote” on her Brexit plan been closer, this might have worked. It feels like a strategy drawn up in advance with a closer margin of defeat in mind, but, given the record-breaking majority of 230 against the government, it seems doomed to fail. The Prime Minister would need to be a political genius to win the extremely risky game of chicken that she seems intent on playing with the health of the UK economy. A majority of MPs may be opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but they could be out-manoeuvred as time runs out by those reckless enough to support it. It is hard to blame May for the death of effective government at Westminster at precisely the wrong time. She has tried to come up with a pragmatic compromise, a deal that would minimise the damage to the UK economy while placating the passions of hard-line Brexiteers.
Unfortunately, as French President Emmanuel Macron pointed out yesterday, their vision of Brexit was always a fantasy. “Good luck to the representatives of the nation who have to implement a thing which doesn’t exist,” he said.
However, the clock is ticking and this is no time for finger-pointing. Instead, May needs to abandon her trademark stubbornness and ask the EU to delay Brexit from its current date of 29 March and begin plans for a second referendum. This would prevent an accidental no-deal Brexit – and might just scare Tory hardliners into backing her plan, thereby securing a most unlikely victory.