I speculated prior to the EU referendum that one possible outcome in the event of a leave vote could be a technocratic takeover of the UK government, where the Whitehall bureaucrats would step in to limit the resulting damage. I assumed it would be the civil servants who made the move, as politicians have to face the electorate at some point. Well it seems, not so.
Teresa May is now on course to be the next PM without a single vote cast in her name (by anyone outside the Tory Parliamentary party). Her last opponent, Andrea “fruitcake” Leadsom, withdrew after controversy regarding some (entirely accurate) comments she made in the Times news paper (which is owned by, guess who?). Clearly this was a not to subtle “well come to hell” signal from the establishment to Andrea that if she stayed in the race, she would be subjecting herself to 3 months of this….and then they’d make sure she lost anyway. So falling on her own sword became the obvious way out.
Now I was led to believe that once the Tory membership had their vote, the 1922 committee had to endorse the result for May to become the official party. This should take a few days. However, Andrea had barely finished her speech and we were getting tweets from the chairman of the 1922 committee confirming May in place. It seems dubious at best that such a key decision could be taken so quickly if they were caught unaware. Clearly there was a stitch up here. Gove, knifed Boris, Andrea knifed Gove, May knifes Andrea. And people say politics is boring!
The Eagle has landed
Meanwhile across town, Andrea “The Thrush” Eagle is attempting to become labour leader. But, you say, its a waste of time why the labour membership will just vote for him again. Well not if he’s not on the ballot paper they won’t. The PLP is trying to exclude Corbyn from the ballot papers. And of course if Corbyn gets the boot and nobody else steps forward, then “the Thrush” becomes leader of the opposition by default without a single vote cast in her name (and if he wins, the PLP split and pick a leader without any vote!).
In short, it would appear that post-Brexit the establishment now has such utter contempt and lack of faith in the electorate that the two main parties don’t even trust their own party members to vote in a party leadership election. I recall some Brexiters trying to justify voting leave on the back of “voter fatigue”. Well I’ve got great news for you, don’t expect to be voting much from now on, it will be a very long time before any British government holds another referendum on anything (even the question as to what age we impose compulsory euthanasia).
2nd Class status for the UK
And naturally one can predict that the establishment’s plan will be either to simply ignore the referendum result (as I outlined, there’s various ways it could be thrown out and blocked) or they will push for the so called “Norway model”. As I mentioned before, this would arguably leave the UK much worse off than it currently is. We’d be paying 94% per capita of what we currently pay, there will be few if any new immigration controls (bit more paper work, bit easier to restrict benefits until they start working, but that’s about it) and the vast bulk of EU trade rules will stay in place, its just that the UK will lose the right to veto any change to those rules.
In effect if you voted leave in order to “take control”, the only thing the UK will be taking control of is the fax machine in Whitehall through which the EU will issue future instructions and dictates. I’m reminded of a slightly mad uncle who refused to drive any German made car after what they did during the war and he also boycotted anything American after Vietnam….so he drove around in a Vaxuhall, i.e. a German made Opel (owned by a US firm) with a British badge on the front. That’s pretty much what the UK post-Brexit will amount too. We’ll still be under the dominion of Brussels, its just it will be hidden under a cheap bit of plastic and we’ll have no say in how things are run.
Now okay, the civil service and establishment don’t like the idea of this any more than we do, but its the least worse option compared to what would happen if we tried to follow through on the plans of the brexit bigot brigade. In short, the establishment post-referendum now trusts EU bureaucrats in Brussels more than it trusts its own citizens.
Of course the establishment isn’t going to have everything its own way, there’s a few wild cards waiting in the wings. The SNP have clearly not gotten the same memo as New labour or Tory MP’s. They will be wanting a referendum on Scottish independence. Its possible the establishment can stop this by offering Scotland new powers, perhaps even a fully federal UK, in which for example all powers other than foreign affairs and defence are devolved. In theory with EU support the Scots could then apply for EU membership in their own right.
However, I’m doubtful the SNP would go for this, nor that the EU would play ball (it would be a bridge too far for them I suspect). So a 2nd independence referendum is very likely. Now the establishment will fight this one every step of the way. They may even get quite nasty. But given the growing momentum in Scotland, I don’t see how it can be stopped. And trying to stop it makes a Yes vote more likely.
So if in the end it goes ahead, and its a clear vote to leave, with a high enough turn out to make it credible, they’ll have to accept it. The UK is now leaving the EU on the basis of a non-legally binding referendum in which only 37% of the electorate (52% times the turnout of 72%) voted leave. If the SNP can equal or exceed this threshold, it becomes very difficult to argue against them. A precedence has been set (ironically mostly by opponents of Scottish independence!).
And in some respects a scenario where Scotland is an EU member, rUK is not but with free travel between the two countries and both part of the EEA, is a very neat and cosy settlement. The EU would find the Scots a much more proactive partner than the Westminster government. The Scots would indirectly voice concerns on behalf of the whole Island (and be able to veto or block certain red line issues). Its not the outcome the establishment wants (particularly if you are a Whitehall bureaucrat), but if it happens anyway, I can see them pushing back from the table and considering it as a least worse option.
Of course there will have to be an election in 2020 and there’s a very strong possibility of an economic downturn between now and then. Its likely the government will also run up a fairly large deficit, with serious implications for the UK’s economic future (doubly so if Scotland leaves and takes its oil, renewables and high value exports with it). But the establishment now has the perfect go-to excuse for every occasion – Brexit (i.e. you morons not voting the way we told you too). So they will be able to deflect blame away from themselves and point the finger back at the parties of the far right and far left.
So while one assumes there will be a lot of angry voters in 2020, the Brexit bigot brigade in particular will be hopping mad by then, realising nothing has changed, indeed they will be worse off. And while I would predict that UKIP’s voter share will increase in 2020 (demonstrating that Cameron should never have held the referendum in the first place) it won’t matter. By then it will be too late for them to stop anything, and in any event they are unlikely to get a majority.
On the left a labour party split is now very likely. The Corbyn wing may split off and form their own party. Or the PLP will all leave and either merge with the lib dems or form a new independent party. So come the next election there will either be an enlarged lib dem’s or a new labour party as well as a anti-establishment hard left labour party of some shape or form. But again unless Corbyn can get a majority (and of course he would would never work with UKIP) it will make little difference. The likelihood is that in 2020 the establishment candidates in new labour, the Tories and lib dems will prevail, they’ll lose a good few seats yes, but it will be a coalition of some form out of those three parties.
And, as noted, it will become increasingly obvious that the Norway model is a crap deal. Its like paying for a first class ticket and sitting in the economy section. If there is another EU referendum, it will be at some distant date regarding rejoining the EU (under the terms of a new member, i.e. not as generous terms as the UK now enjoys).
Be careful what you wish for…..
The cold hard realities for the Brexit brigade is that, much as I predicted would happen several years back, they are likely to find that by voting leave they have achieved the complete opposite of what they set out to get. Less control, they are even more ignored by the politicians, and they will be considerably worse off financially. Even though, on paper, the Brexiters are getting what they asked for.
I’m reminded of that bit in Forest Gump where Robin Wright’s character says her dream is to sit with a guitar and sing songs to a crowd. Later on in the movie she gets to do this ….in a strip club while naked! That’s about where the leave voters will be in a few years time. Your wish will be fulfilled, but in a cruel twisted and ironic way. Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.