Kenny MacAskill: Theresa May dances as no-deal Brexit catastrophe looms

The British Government's desperation over Brexit is becoming ever more evident, perhaps best highlighted by Theresa May's excruciating African dance routine. Not just white men but the Prime Minister has no rhythm, it appears.

Politicians frequently take embarrassing poses, I’ve done more than my fair share, but staffers usually limit them, not have them beamed around the world.

However, as the saying goes “beggars can’t be choosers” and having made no headway with the EU desperation has set in. But, Stanley had more success in finding Dr Livingstone than she’ll have in discovering wonderous trade deals on the African continent.

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It’s a far cry from the heady days of her early premiership when it seemed she could do no wrong and the optimism of Brexiteers was sky high. Her newly appointed International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, then claimed that an EU trade deal would be “the easiest in history to get”.

Theresa May dances with children in South Africa after reassuring the public that Brexit does not risk the end of the world (Picture: Rodger BoschAFP/Getty Images)Theresa May dances with children in South Africa after reassuring the public that Brexit does not risk the end of the world (Picture: Rodger BoschAFP/Getty Images)
Theresa May dances with children in South Africa after reassuring the public that Brexit does not risk the end of the world (Picture: Rodger BoschAFP/Getty Images)

Now, he’s reduced to saying “it’s not our fault” – as if it was a big boy that did it, then ran away (or rather the EU didn’t just roll over and do whatever the restored and reinvigorated Empire wanted!). Comments from supposed allies like the United States, who the Brexiteers venerate and seek to emulate, were ignored – such as when US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described Brexit as a “God-given opportunity” for the City of London’s financial rivals like Frankfurt and Dublin.

Neither David Davis nor Boris Johnson, got any change out of the EU 27, who far from being intransigent, have simply stood their ground, saying now, through French President Emmanuel Macron, what they’ve said since the outset, that whilst they’d recognise the sovereignty of the UK, they’d also protect the integrity of the EU.

The EU position has hardened only on the Irish border issue as they protect the rights of a member state, sharply contrasting with the “Cromwellian” attitude of the Jacob Rees-Mogg who was as dismissive of the tragedy of the Troubles, as he was contemptuous of the entire island of Ireland. With friends like him, those who oppose a united Ireland don’t need enemies.

Just why the Brexiteers thought the Europeans would roll over can only be guessed at, but no doubt it was a mixture of arrogance and ignorance. Yet, having started digging a hole for the entire country, they have simply continued. When the Chancellor warns of economic catastrophe and scenario planning takes place for a no-deal Brexit that is akin to war or an unparralleled natural disaster, Theresa May simply says “it wouldn’t be the end of the world”.

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Well no doubt not for her as she and her husband are rich and insulated from the consequences of unemployment and penury. She’ll pay a price when her premiership falls, as it rightly will, but it’ll be as nothing to the P45s others will pick up and the universal credit they’ll be dependent on, if they can even get it.

It’s a good few months since I met with a senior Japanese diplomat genuinely perplexed that the UK just couldn’t understand that they meant it when they said jobs would be lost. Philip Hammond realises that as he confirms not just the massive increased borrowing we’ll all have to pay for, but the loss of jobs in areas where we’ve benefited from inward Asian investment, especially in cars and chemicals.

Not just Japan but China liked the UK – but they liked it as a country that gave easy access into the EU. With that gone, neither the premier league nor the English language will counterbalance the loss and they’ll be off, perhaps slowly as we’re seeing at the moment, but then in a deluge as old bonds are broken and new links are forged.

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That’s why there has to be a second Brexit referendum. For sure, there are legitimate arguments that question the 2016 result – about everything from the creation of a false perspective to fraudulent lies, illegal spending and perhaps even outside interference. Where there’s been illegality action must be taken, democracy demands no less.

The suggestion that the past result is the democratic will of the people and cannot be challenged is an absurdity. There was clear and flagrant misconduct, never mind that most folk were voting against immigration rather than for Brexit.

There are legitimate arguments to be made, even though I don’t accept them, about the time that should pass before another can be held. But, these issues are all political and depend on the particular issue and the context at the time. It’s interesting though watching many who denounced a second independence vote, go through intellectual hoops to differentiate.

The real issue justifying another referendum isn’t the past but the present and, more worryingly, the future. A no-deal Brexit – and its consequences – were never put to the people, nor even was the tawdry absurdity that’s the Chequers Agreement, which has as much legitimacy as a fraudster’s word of honour.

Neither the catastrophe perceived by Hammond nor the “wing and a prayer” position of May were explained or voted on. Democracy demands that the people have a say about what they’ll have to face and, for that reason, a second vote is essential.

Why the opposition makes so little of it beats me. Labour wouldn’t even have to commit to a Remain/Leave binary choice but could ask for approval or rejection of current Brexit plans. That would at least clear the decks of the 2016 vote and allow them a fresh start in further negotiations.

Harold Wilson was tactically shrewd to keep his party together in the 70s when Labour was split over joining the EEC but Corbyn isn’t in his league. The SNP’s hope that Britain’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity is off-set by the reality that a disaster for England is equally a disaster for Scotland. Even a new Tory Leader could benefit from respite and a new round of negotiations, as indeed would the EU, still desperate to keep the UK in or close.

So, a second vote, whatever the wording or choices on offer, there must be. It’s the people’s right to decide their future but equally the solution for a political class unable to avoid impending disaster.