Your average Brit will tell you they’re sick and tired of Brexit, that the country has had enough, it’s knackered. But clearly, they have not had nearly enough. Britain is obsessed with Brexit.
It’s a national humiliation, pretty much everyone agrees. But it’s mesmerizing. Like a train wreck, on a loop.
The brinkmanship, the dozens of “last ditch” and “cliff edge” summits and debates, the snakes and ladders – for those who like political drama, these are gripping times. It’s “Game of Thrones, Final Season.”
The big talking points of this week: Will Prime Minister Theresa May survive? Can Parliament seize control of Brexit through a series of “indicative votes”? Can it avoid a no-deal withdrawal and the economic chaos that would bring?
The prime minister told Parliament on Monday that she doesn’t have the support, yet, to pass her Brexit deal. She warned of a “slow motion Brexit.” So new episodes are still being scripted.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people hurry home to watch Parliament TV in the evening. The streaming service – Britain’s low-rent C-Span – is posting record-breaking numbers, for a seemingly endless number of “non-binding” votes.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow – the “order! order!” fellow with the colorful ties and erudite put-downs – has become a rock star, in need of a body guard.
In ways once unimaginable, the public now knows who Chris Grayling is. The hapless transport minister paid a fortune to a company to run ferries if Britain crashes out of the European Union with no deal, only to discover the company had no, umm, actual ferries.
More than five million people have signed an online petition to cancel Brexit. The website has crashed. Multiple times.
Organizers said turnout for the “Put It to the People” march in London on Saturday exceeded one million, making it one of the biggest demonstrations Britain has seen. Ever.
Oh, they care.
They brought their children to London. They brought their dogs. They made costumes.
Helen Farr, 41, a university lecturer, traveled from Southampton with her two small children, ages 1 and 5, to be at the march. This was non-essential travel on packed trains with a child in diapers.
“You don’t travel across the country with two small children to spend hours walking in crowds unless you really really feel it’s important,” she said, pushing her buggy through throngs waving blue flags of the EU.
The atmosphere? “Positively febrile,” according to the British press. We had to look that one up. It means fevered, intensely and nervously active.
An overexcited foreign correspondent in Brussels told the BBC this was “the biggest EU story since the fall of the Berlin wall.”
Across the pond, the Mueller report is big news.
But in London, the press revealed that the Ministry of Defense has set up an operations room in “a bunker” at its main Whitehall building to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit, under the banner of “Operation Redfold.”
The last time the British government was operating out of a bunker in Whitehall? The Blitz.
On Sunday, the airwaves were filled with stories about “coups” and “plotters” and how May was on the way out, in days if not hours.
The Sunday Times front page: “Cabinet coup to ditch Theresa May for emergency PM.”
The very same newspaper on Monday? Never mind.
The Sun tabloid printed a front-page editorial, “TIME’S UP THERESA! Theresa May has shown courage – but to seal her deal and deliver Brexit, she needs to resign.”
This made a big splash. For about ten minutes.
It’s not that some “plotters” wouldn’t mind seeing the prime minister off.
Conservative lawmaker and zuper-Brexiteer Boris Johnson, one of the favorites to replace May should she resign, wrote in Monday’s Daily Telegraph that the government had “chickened out” on delivering Brexit, and that if May wants to win support for her deal, she needed to show the next phase “will be different from the first.” This suggested to some that he might be willing to back the deal, as long as May promises to step aside.
But here’s the problem. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC Breakfast on Monday the government was “constrained by the fact that we have a Leave electorate and a Parliament that leans towards Remain and the government doesn’t have a majority in the House of Commons.”
Finance Minister Phillip Hammond advised Sky News, “Changing the prime minister wouldn’t help us. Changing the party in government wouldn’t help us. We’ve got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to Parliament, what type of way forward Parliament can agree on, so we can can avoid what would be an economic catastrophe of a no-deal exit.”
“Catastrophe.” His words, not ours.
This was supposed to be the week Britain left the EU. But an extension has prolonged the agony. Tune in to the talk shows, and it’s more of the same debates over and over and over again: The vexing issue of the Irish backstop, the arcane internal tensions of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party; the complexity of the customs union; and, yes, the “Norway option.”
What might happen this week? What time is it? The state of affairs could change between luncheon and tea time. Or it could remain stuck where it is.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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