We’ve done the ‘in and out’, we’ve completed the shaking about, and now it is time for the turning around — and yes, that is what it’s all about.

I know, I know — surely not another one? There’ve been countless articles written on the British exit of the European Union. The public’s psyches have been saturated to the point of neurological explosion under the weight of ‘backstops’ and borders, amendments and second referendums, Boris and Brussels, May and madness. My sole intention is to explain the unfolding story of Brexit in simpler terms — for all of our sanities’ sakes. What are these simpler terms I hear you asking? The ‘hokey cokey’. It is the ‘hokey cokey’ that will provide us with clarity.

Now, while I understand that the present introduction of every primary school’s default participatory song and dance may seem like a somewhat obscure addition to the ever-expanding book of Brexit tales, I feel that if a politician can get stuck on a zip-wire and later headbutt a Japanese child while still furthering his political career, then conventional expectations of professionalism may have died many moons ago.

In out, in out.

Having got that off of my chest we move on to the story of Brexit, which much like the song, began with a lot of talk about ins and outs. In 2016, in an ignorant effort to appease the growing Eurosceptic wing of his party, then Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a “once in a lifetime vote” — an “in-out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The referendum served as a shameful example of twenty-first century democratic process, from the falsities of the £350 million on the big red bus and the ‘breaking point’ billboard, to the arrogant negativity of the smug establishment figures that dictated much of the strategy for the remain campaign.

A downtrodden David Cameron the ignorant architect of the Brexit chaos.
(REUTERS/Toby Melville)

The result? A near 50-50 shattering fragmentation of British political democracy — with 51.9% voting to leave, while 48.1% voted to remain. Little did we know, at that time, that Cameron’s naïve political expediency would go on to become the greatest case against direct democracy in British political history — whichever side of the debate you were on.

The key flaw in referenda is that they participate in a gross oversimplification of hugely complex issues. They take the intricacies of stepping away from a half-a-century long relationship with the European Union and confine it to a binary choice of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. More than anything they polarise, and that will be the legacy of the EU referendum regardless of the eventual outcome.

Shake it all about.

In the aftermath of the humiliating referendum loss, Cameron too conceded his premiership. It was then Theresa May who emerged from the Conservative’s internal elections, as the ‘shaking’ up of the face of British politics began to take full swing.

On 29 March 2017, May triumphantly invoked Article 50 and Britain began to break ground on conceiving its new relationship with the rest of the world. Shrouded in a bizarre mix of futuristic traditionalism, the country was expectant for the supposed bowing down of the Europeans to good old-fashioned British chivalry — there was to be a rude awakening.

The longer the frustrating and stunting negotiations went on, the more the one arm of the country pulled in one direction as the opposite arm pulled in the other. The European Research Group (ERG), the radical Conservative Party faction headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson, et al., (not unfamiliar to the sound of “rah rah rah” at their cocktail parties) dragged May’s Chequers deal through pantomimic media appearance after pantomimic media appearance in full agreement that the deal for withdrawal did not live up to the promise of the referendum.

Jacob Rees-Mogg of the European Research Group (ERG).
(picture-alliance/R. Tang)

But the problem here is that there was never a pre-conceived idea of what Brexit Britain looked like prior to the public vote taking place. We voted to ‘leave’ — nothing more, nothing less — and for anyone to claim insight into the true nature of the will of the people would be to refer to either leave or remain as holistic blocks.

Additionally problematic is that if, as we had in the case of the referendum, a decision is left up to the will of the people, then any one person can only hope to implement the outcome of such a decision by harnessing, or at least claiming to harness, what the true will of the people entails — and that, quite simply, is as impossible as Rees-Mogg blending in at a Skepta gig.

More than just the ‘shaking’ and ‘shuffling’ of politicians in order to position themselves as the channelers of the will of the people, the people too have ‘shaken’ the foundations of political decency in claiming to exhibit the actualities of the people’s will.

Tommy Robinson and the infamous luminous yellow jacket brigade have only exacerbated the microwave-effect that Brexit has had on the British political landscape.

Tommy Robinson and the infamous luminous yellow jacket brigade have brought about a fresh uneasiness and verbal brutality in Westminster, which has only exacerbated the microwave-effect that Brexit has had on the British political landscape. We are living in a time when racists and xenophobes have a disturbingly credible voice in mainstream debates, and Jess Phillips has even suggested that many have worryingly tempered their “desires for the country based on what Robinson might do”.

But who, or what, has found themselves in the middle of this ideological and dogmatic tug-of-war? The once-upon-a-time decision-making institution of Parliament. The uttering of a Brexit majority has been a taboo in the Commons, and there appears no clear direction out of the suffocating gridlock. The ERG have no intentions of supporting May’s ‘dead as a dodo’ deal and yet failed in their attempt at introducing a stauncher Brexiteer with an ousting May via the tabling of a vote of no confidence.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, whether by political means or simply a distaste for May’s deal, have equally unwaveringly stood in opposition — but for vastly different reasons to the ERG. Yet despite the defeat of May’s Brexit deal, one that will go down as the heaviest for any government in British political history, the government too have subsequently survived a vote of no confidence yesterday as Labour and Corbyn’s opportunistic shot fell short by 19 votes putting end to immediate hopes of a general election and obliterating another potential avenue in the process.

Parliament, in taking back some means of control, also previously voted through motions in opposition to leaving the European Union with ‘no deal’ — the preferred eventuality for the ERG. This all leaving very few options on the table and very little remanence of the supposed consensus that the referendum had unequivocally imposed on us.

The turn around.

If you’ve been following me this far you will know that the final lines of the song go, “you do the hokey cokey and you turn around — and that’s what it’s all about”. This messianic turn-around, my friends, comes in the form of a second referendum — or “the people’s vote”.

A referendum has broken our system of Parliamentary democracy and only a referendum will go some way to fixing it again.

A referendum has broken our system of Parliamentary democracy and only a referendum will go some way to fixing it again. We now know the terms of our potential exit from the European Union, May’s deal, something that we were ignorant to when Cameron made that fateful bargain in 2016 and we must now be offered an affirming choice in wielding this new definitive information before we rubber stamp our futures and open up our blue passports. While May’s deal did get voted down, it ultimately offers the only concrete manifestation of a Brexit journey should the country decide to go down that route, and that should take precedent on any ballot over the blind plunge of ‘no deal’.

It would be stupid to engage in speculation on what this turning around would result in, nor should anyone claim that turning around would result in a full EU-turn. Just simply that to turn around is to double check, to re-affirm, to know for certain — and when you’re are thinking about the most profound political decision in contemporary British history — that’s truly what it’s all about.

Categories: UK Politics