Stalled Brexit Goings On

The tumultuous last few days in Ukania’s House of Commons have been bewildering even for those Brits used to the arcane fripperies and conventions of the supposed “mother” of all parliaments.

117 Tories rejected May last month in their intra-party vote on her leadership, which she survived by a slim majority.

Faced with a vote on Labour’s subsequent no-confidence motion on the Tory government, all these 117 fair-weather Tories found a way to support May! A successful vote of no confidence in the May government would have ensued in a general election.

Clearly, for these 117 craven Tories, the parliamentary vote on the future of May’s government, with obviously crucial Brexitimplications, had little to do with Brexit per se (since they reject, absolutely, all her Brexit proposals), and everything to do with saving their own political careers.

The MPs of her own party detest May (a handful of exceptions apart), but value their own political careers so much that they will cram this detestation down their own throats.

If there is a Tory version of an Anthony Bourdain TV show, this surely is their equivalent of Bourdain eating grilled rat’s brains in some exotic location, except of course that the much-missed Bourdain had an obvious delight in his gustation, while, clearly, these Tory parliamentarians engage in fervidly anxious calculations regarding their possible survival before half-choking on the political equivalent —May’s political survival– of Bourdain’s grilled rat’s brains.

Everything about Brexit, on all Ukanian sides, is bilious and acidic.

Even the retro-imperialist Tory Brexiteers, such as Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Michael Gove, and Jacob Rees-Mogg (the latter commonly referred to as the Hon Member for the 18thCentury), make their Brexit pitches with an eye to succeeding May as party leader, and their ensuing calculations oftentimes have little or nothing to do with the realities of Brexit.

At the same time Labour is hopelessly split on Brexit, mindful that its electoral heartlands outside London voted for Brexit, while its large base in the Greater London area voted overwhelmingly against Brexit.

Labour MPs in these areas have chosen their Brexit positions accordingly. Some of these MPs have been egged-on by Tony Blair to form a separate pro-Brexit “centrist” party.

Labour’s Blairite neoliberal remnant is of course staunchly anti-Brexit, but seems more interested in overthrowing the staunchly anti-neoliberal Corbyn (himself a Lexiteer) than opposing Brexit.

Both major parties are thus more or less engaged in undermining their respective leaders, and within the party, ensuring the survival of this or that individual MP, rather than involving themselves with the intricacies (or, more accurately, the intractabilities) of Brexit.

For these opportunists, to a man and woman, tomorrow is just another day on the Brexit carousel.

The saddest thing of all, for this longtime supporter of the principled Jeremy Corbyn, is to see him captive to, and helpless in the face of, these Brexit vagaries.

Corbyn’s problem is that he does not exude what passes for a slick “competence” in this age of telematic politics.

Corbyn’s dilemma is that in leading a hopelessly split party, he can either keep his principles and thus bail on the leadership, or he can continue to lead and in so doing compromise his principles in order to accommodate the Brexit whims of his unyieldingly divided party.

The problem for the Labour party’s socialist wing here is that the front-runner to succeed Corbyn is the Blairite David Miliband (currently head of an international NGO at a remuneration of £300,000/$450,000 per annum, in addition to several lucrative directorships).

David Miliband is reported to be in favour of a “soft” Brexit, but in these Brexit days where there can be four seasons in a single day, who knows what that will entail?

In all likelihood, this son of the radical socialist intellectual Ralph Miliband– surely turning over in his grave at his son’s voracious fondness for opportunities afforded by a “moral” capitalism– will choose options that don’t reduce David’s possibilities for a splendid money-spinning livelihood.

So, for us socialist members of the Labour party, it has still to be the untelegenic Corbyn, and certainly not any Blairite remnant resourcefully faking some prospect for a “moral” capitalism.

The Brexit chaos will probably mean that surprises in parliament are inevitable.

Some of us recall that in the 1970s it took 6 parliamentary votes of no-confidence in the Tory government to culminate in the general election that deposed it from office.

Theresa May’s government, having survived a single such vote, could therefore have a few more of these no-confidence votes to surmount in order to continue in office.

Ahead, though, there lie several scenarios—a catastrophic run on sterling, a major economic recession, a disastrous “no deal” exit from the EU, political consequences that lead to a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, with more than one of these possibly occurring at the same time.

In the shorter term, Brexit scenarios will be controlled in large part by the merciless eurocrats in Brussels, determined somehow to force a rescinding of the UK’s Brexit referendum decision, as well as setting a vicious example for any EU member tempted to emulate the UK.

Theresa May’s folly is that she pretends (for her UK electorate at any rate) to be an equal partner in her negotiations with the eurocrats, while the latter disdain her as a hopeless supplicant.

All May’s several trips to Brussels, in the futile hope of wringing cosmetic concessions from the eurocrats, have been as pointless as an attempt, hypothetical of course, to persuade May’s idol Margaret Thatcher to become a Trotskyite.

Alas for May, her electorate has long seen through her useless shadow-theatre, intended to prolong the Brexit clock for as long as possible, with the EU negotiators.

Theresa “the Maybot” May has no objective but to keep this clock running for as long as possible, until its or her own batteries run out.

Only the eurocrats can replace the Maybot’s proverbial batteries.

In the meantime, deadlines insert themselves.

The official date for Brexit is March 29.

Not extending this deadline, and the EU is open to this extension, will mean a no-deal Brexit.

May’s Brexit Plan A (involving open borders between the UK’s Northern Ireland and the EU member Ireland/Eire, among other things) was rejected by the biggest margin in UK parliamentary history. Her options are now limited.

May is required by parliament to come up with a Plan B, which she does not have—the intransigent May has insisted all along that it is her plan A or nothing else.

All current indications are that her next step is to submit Plan A, with a name change only, as Plan B.

My friends ridicule Trumplandia, but Maylandia is now level-pegging.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.