“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” says the White Queen in Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass, but they might as well have been the words of Prime Minister May on Tuesday morning as she prepared to bring the Brexit deal she negotiated with the EU before Parliament. Originally scheduled for mid-December the vote was postponed when it became apparent that the PM would lose - if anything, feelings towards her deal have only soured further since then. So, by the time Tuesday came around it was clear this deal was dead, but regardless the PM ploughed senselessly on in the deluded belief that she could pass it.
Illustration by Rhiannon Powell
The result was the biggest government defeat in British political history. 432 MPs voted to reject the deal, compared to a pitiful 202 in support. Many Conservative MPs voted against their leadership and in a shocking show of cooperation in these dark times, these came from both remain and leave, hard and soft Brexit camps. The result should have proved a jolt to bring May back to reality but amazing she appears to remain in Wonderland. Under any other circumstances, such a display of contempt from the government would result in the resignation of the PM, but cockroach May limps on.
So, in swoops the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition to save the nation from this pit of despair? Well...not exactly. Comrade Corbyn was quick to table a vote of no confidence in the government - a vote that could topple the government and trigger a general election! However, it was obvious even before announced that this vote would fail miserably. Most Tories may not like their leader but, in their eyes, she's certainly preferable to the Soviet realism of a Corbyn government.
Where are we now then? Parliament have rejected the only deal we had; the government and PM have proven surprisingly indestructible, and the countdown to Brexit Day, the 29th March, continues. Now begins the scramble for a solution, two strong camps appear to be emerging, those happy to crash out with no deal at all, and those advocating a second referendum.
Within the second referendum gang, there seems to be further disagreement as to what options should be on the ballot – May’s Deal? No Deal? Remain? Or even some strange in/out situation known as Norway Plus, very adventurous! There is also an issue of time. Referenda take forever, remember 2016, it was all we heard about for the best part of four months. There is simply not the time to organise a second vote before the dreaded 29th March 2019. This means May (or whoever might be in Downing Street at the time – it’s anyone’s guess at this point) would have to go back to the EU and ask them to allow us extra time to get our shit together. How embarrassing!
To try and clear up the future path for the nation, May has now invited the leaders and senior figures of all parties to a cross-party talk with the government. All have jumped at the opportunity to have a go a rescuing May’s pigs’ ear of a Brexit… all that is except old Corbynovich who has decided that he will play no part in these talks until the ‘no deal’ option has been taken completely off the table. However, he doesn’t seem keen on any proposed deal and refuses to commit to a second referendum. Helpful Jeremy!
Last week I managed to not mention Brexit at all (except very briefly at the end), this week it seems I have failed in that task. So, in an attempt to make up for this, let’s take a quick look at what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
Following on from last week’s column, the government shutdown in the US continues with the President and Congress polarised more than ever and the State of the Union address on the horizon. Over in Australia, the island where everything is designed to kill you, even the weather has joined in the fun as they’ve been experiencing a week of temperatures in the low 40s degrees Celsius! Meanwhile, in France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has begun preparations for the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit… oh damn, there it is again. It seems falling down the Brexit rabbit-hole is unavoidable. I’ll leave you with one more Alice in Wonderland quote which seems oddly appropriate…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where."
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."