The British cabinet is preparing to retire to Chequers for a country weekend of Pims, strawberries and footie and tennis on the telly. There may even be some croquet on the prime ministerial lawn and perhaps late night bridge in the drawing room.
Miss Marple and/or Hercule Poirot, however, should be on hand for a rapid intervention. The likelihood of blood on the vintage Axminster is high.
The stated purpose of the meeting is to finally reach an agreement on the British negotiating position for Brexit negotiations. Will they agree? Unlikely. The Brexiteers red lines are finally hitting the brick wall of reality. A growing coalition of business, trade unions, and a hard-nosed Treasury are blocking Boris and Co at every turning.
However, they can’t back down. That would be political suicide. On the other hand, the Brexiteers can’t play their trump card and resign in protest. That would collapse the government and result in an election win for a left-wing Labour administration.
Prime Minister Theresa May is said to have devised a compromise solution which Downing Street sources say is “the best of both worlds.” Both Brexiteers and EU negotiators have dismissed it as the “worst of all worlds,”
So the likely result of the coming make or break weekend is a fudge falsely portrayed as a breakthrough. In short, more shambles with the likely final result of a no deal Brexit with all the nightmarish consequences that entails.
Of course, this exponentially increases the chances of a second referendum. The problem is that the Remainers are almost every bit as clueless about Britain’s national direction as the Brexiteers. Other than saying they want a second referendum on Brexit with the implied aim of a reversal of the 2016 vote, they have offered no clear alternative set of policies.
For a start, what would be the words on the ballot paper? Would it be another binary choice—stay out or go back in? Would it offer eternal negotiations with a return to status quo ante until they are never concluded?
Will the second referendum ballot paper be in or out or will it accept the result of the first referendum and offer merely soft or hard Brexit? If it offers soft Brexit will the Remainers make it clear that the UK would be subject to EU rules, laws, regulations and tariffs with only a limited—if that—say on their content?
Immigration and the EU’s rules on free movement of labour was a big issue in the first referendum. Most Remainers are multiculturalists. Unfortunately for them, a large proportion of the population feel threatened by the multiculturalism they embrace. The immigration issue has been inextricably linked to Brexit and exacerbated national divisions. How do the Remainers propose to deal with the perceived threat of free movement?
And finally—and perhaps most important of all— if the Remainers win a second referendum, how do they propose to answer the Brexiteers’ inevitable charge that they were cheated by an elitist conspiracy of big business, clever clog intellectuals, immigrants and international liberalism? How do they prevent an angry backlash from Brexiteers?
The current state of Brexit negotiations is a shambles because the Brexit advocates failed to look beyond the referendum campaign and result. They failed to recognise the Newtonian reality that every action has a reaction. They failed to address the complexities, the emotions or the realities of leaving EU. There was no plan and they have been justifiably castigated for their failure.
If the Remainers do not want to suffer the same fate then they need to prepare a detailed post-second referendum alternative. Presenting such a proposal would increase the chances of a second referendum being held as well as mitigating the consequences of a vote against the Brexiteers. The political formula cannot be a simple return to status quo ante. The referendum and the subsequent two years have moved the goal posts. A cunning plan is needed.
Tom Arms is editor of Lookaheadnews.com