When are they going to admit that Brexit is a disaster? The Conservatives seem pathologically unable to admit it. Labour appears less willing to accept the reality every day. With six months to go before the UK leaves the European Union, there is no agreement. There is no trade deal. There is no plan to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. Brexit is going to be a failure.
We can run through all the analogies from train wrecks to the Titanic, but perhaps the most appropriate is Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch. A man walks into a pet shop with an obviously dead parrot and tries to return it. The shopkeeper refuses to accept the bird is dead, trying to avoid a refund. No matter how clearly and vociferously the customer demonstrates that the bird is dead, it does no good. There’s always an excuse. There’s always a deflection. It’s only fitting that John Cleese is now a critic of Brexit.
Two years after a referendum, nothing has been achieved. Theresa May’s recent speech played well in the right-wing media but it made absolutely no difference. Her British bulldog act won’t cut it. This isn’t the 1930s; the world doesn’t cower at the thought of British gunboats any more. It’s now clearer than ever that May is preparing the country for a no deal Brexit. And we know what that will mean: flights cancelled, chaos at the ports, food and medicine shortages, a fall in the value of the pound and on and on into a morass of misery and recrimination.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party can’t smell the dead parrot either. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell wants to rule out a ‘Remain’ option in any new referendum. What fresh Hell is this? What is the point of a referendum if the only choices are different versions of Brexit? And even if there were a ‘Labour Brexit’, how would it come about? For all their talk of wanting a general election, Labour lost the last three elections and is still a deeply divided party. Promising a referendum without the chance to reverse Brexit won’t win a single vote. Still, the party’s members might see sense and impose a real referendum on the leadership.
The politicians are like the stubborn shopkeeper giving John Cleese the run-around. Brexit can still work, if you do it our way. Brexit is something different from what you thought it was. You just need to embrace Brexit for what it is. Like Michael Palin, the Brexiteers draw attention to its beautiful plumage (blue passports!) and assure the public that it’ll all come good in the end. This particular parrot is just behaving the way his species always behaves. There will be a last minute deal, possibly on 28 March, 2019, with a few hours to spare.
Many British citizens are now racked with buyers’ remorse. As polls show that a new referendum could deliver a pro-Remain result, the two main political parties seem committed to the bit – nailing Brexit to its perch long after it’s dead. The dream of Brexit has ceased to be. As Cleese said so presciently in that infamous comedy sketch, “If you want to get anything done in this country, you’ve got to complain till you’re blue in the mouth.” Many Britons are doing just that. Will anyone listen?