Politics 14 October 2018 | 17:55

Brexit is about to get serious. Brace for impact

14 October 2018 17:55

Buckle up buckaroos. At DRUGSTORE CULTURE, we take the view that grass-roots activism and community action are more interesting than the high court politics of, say, Westminster and the Washington DC Beltway.

Alex Hannaford’s fine piece on the rise and rise of Beto O’Rourke in Texas is an example of what intrigues us: movement politics, generating real change. We like the grit and grain of people power.

But sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and face the fact that what’s going on at the apex of politics is of undeniable importance to absolutely everyone.

This is one such week. On Wednesday, Theresa May heads to Brussels for what was meant to be the final settlement of the Brexit deal. It won’t be, but the diplomatic noises on both sides of the negotiation are becoming increasingly positive, if not yet ecstatic. An agreement that the Prime Minister and the EU can both live with could well be in sight.

Ah, but wait. That’s only the start of a great knot of political horror. May’s own MPs hate her proposal to keep the UK within the EU Customs Union while the extremely technical question of the Irish border is being settled. Why do they care? Because as long as we are subject to EU jurisdiction, and EU courts, we won’t – to use the language of the 2016 referendum – have ‘taken back control’.

Brexiteer backbenchers also worry that this so-called ‘backstop’ arrangement could become permanent. It is quite possible that there could be more Cabinet resignations in the next week over the PM’s so-called Chequers deal – keep an eye on Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and Esther McVey.

And watch Ruth Davidson (interviewed by DRUGSTORE CULTURE earlier this year) who has hinted heavily that she may resign as Scottish Conservative leader if the ‘integrity of our United Kingdom’ is threatened by the negotiations. Davidson, who sadly (though understandably) ruled herself out as a prospective Prime Minister last month, is one of May’s most important allies, and her loss would be a grievous blow to the PM’s authority.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party – whose MPs are supporting her minority government and remain essential to its survival – is getting seriously antsy about the suggestion that Northern Ireland will remain in the customs union and the single market for the foreseeable future. This, they argue, amounts to ‘annexation’.

Brexit was sold as a thunderflash of liberation but has become the world’s most tedious political soap opera. Unfortunately, its detail really matters. The blizzard of statistics and technocratic minutiae is indeed bewildering but what is at stake is elemental. The heart of the matter is raw politics: where power lies, whether that arrangement best serves the wealth, culture and cohesion of the nation, and whether the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is going to survive.

It doesn’t get much bigger than that – which is why we are such strong supporters of the People’s Vote (join the march in central London on Saturday, October 20). Politics is rarely this intense. We’ll be there every step of the way to explain what’s going on, why it’s happening, and how it will affect us all. Stay tuned.