It’s the Easter holidays and the MPs, probably for their own sanity’s sake, are on holiday so there are no dramas to report. Although I will say that, exactly as before, the week we were granted the extension began in high anxiety mode and then fizzled out, with MPs just disappearing to their aforesaid holiday. Yet, you hope there is a little bit of work going on. Because have our woes ended? No they have not. We just have a ‘flex-extension’ to 31 October, which is also Halloween!
I’ll give you the running order over the next 6 months, and then a short comment, which is not the much longer piece I keep promising. OK, so this is how it’s all panning out:
- 23 April: MPs return from their holidays
- 25 April: Closing date for nominations for the European parliament elections – yes, we have to participate in these elections
- 2 May: local elections in England and Northern Ireland, which will be interesting. Watch those results
- 9 May: EU leaders summit – it is to discuss their post-Brexit future. Mrs May not attending
- Mid-May: the last chance for legislation to be put into place for a 2nd referendum – it’s gone a bit quiet on this one
- 22 May: last-chance salon for the current and, officially, the only Withdrawal Agreement to be passed leading to our exit and non-participation in the EU elections
- 23 May: EU elections – be prepared for a lot of noise leading up to this date
- 26 May: results of the EU elections
- 30 May-11 June: another holiday, possibly
- 20-21 June: EU will assess how far we’ve kicked the can down the road
- 30 June: this is the date Mrs May says we should leave the EU, because from this day British MEPs have to take up their seats in the new EU Parliament. Mrs May could quit now – or maybe not
- the summer: more holidays or a General Election
- 22 September – 2 October: Party Conferences
- 10 October: last-chance salon for a General Election or 2nd Referendum
- 31 October: Our extension expires
My prediction? Nothing will change. Within Parliament there will be a lot of debate and, probably, quite a bit of goodwill and reaching out across parties. But, as it’s been said before, MPs know what they don’t like but there is still little agreement on what they do like. However, it would be foolish to say any more. No pundit, of any side, truly knows what might happen.
I’ll just say a few words on the following:
I still think there is very little positivity about staying in the EU. We see a lot about the economic consequences and the general awfulness of leaving, but there is still isn’t much about the positives. And yes, while it was to a certain extent about trade when we joined, I am old enough to remember holes in streets where bombs had fallen. To see countries that fought so bitterly sitting down together is a joy we should celebrate. And there is so much more to be joyful about as well: the opportunities for our children and grandchildren to move to, and work in, Europe for starters.
And talking about trade. Did you know about the just-in-time deliveries? I knew nothing about these deliveries, and didn’t even think about them. We voted in ignorance of this and many other things, including the critical point of the Northern Ireland border. That issue did not cross my mind once, and I apologise for that.
Yes, Northern Ireland. We British, I mean the English, what do we know of the 30 years of the Troubles? And Irish history? Although you might tell me different, not a lot, I think. And note I’m acknowledging my ignorance here. This is such a sensitive and delicate issue we should never have voted without a huge amount of information on why we cannot have a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Actually, the Irish were far more aware of this than we were. Read this (and see reference below) and weep that Ireland not only had a huge advantage, rightly so, because the EU supported one of its own, there was also our total ‘Brexit comprehension lag’ and ‘the ineptitude’ on the part of the British.
This incompetence on our part I see as a consequence of a certain sort of Brit who rises to the top; of any tree. Boris Johnson is a typical example of this type. He appears clever and well read, but it is not a rigorous cleverness, and actually it’s not useful to focus in on just one person. He is typical of his class, which dominates everywhere and everything. And part of this domination (and I’m reducing this argument to a couple of sentences when it warrants a whole essay or book even) is to see ourselves as ‘exceptional’. Consequently, we do not see, I mean, the English do not see, who we are and what we have done in the past as clearly as we should. And we were and definitely still are not clear about our leaving of the EU and our subsequent role in the world.
Anyway, let us see what happens over the next few weeks. And in the meantime, Happy Easter!
Penny Kocher 18 April 2019
Further reading: How the Irish backstop emerged as May’s Brexit nemesis. Rory Carroll and Lisa O’Carroll. The Guardian, 18 April 2019
Also: The six-month extension. Key dates for Britain and the EU. The Guardian, 13 April 2019