Through the indulgence of the European Union’s bosses Britain is now to stay in the EU for a minimum of 21 days.
Should the deal cooked up between the EU and Theresa May get through Parliament by March 29, Britain’s membership of the EU will be extended a bit further until May 22, giving MPs a chance to pass the legislation needed to exit the EU.
There is not much chance of that happening given May’s bizarre attack on MPs. This had elements of political calculation in it but one senses the contradictory impulses of a politician who is a Remainer at heart but who values the political leverage that Number 10 confers more than political principle or ideological consistency. She is in office to guard the class power of a class divided. The offices of state are not easily surrendered, especially since the alternative is a Corbyn-led administration.
Her manoeuvres will have added strength to the determination of the fraying band of Brexit-supporting Tories to continue their opposition to the withdrawal agreement.
Brexit is on a tight schedule with a critical moment due when whoever is in charge will tell the European Commission that it either plans to hold elections to the EU Parliament or not.
Holding such elections in an atmosphere poisoned by charges of Brexit betrayal that would inevitably accompany such a step would be a fractious affair –made worse by resentment at the leaders of France and Germany, rivals for the decisive say in EU affairs, instructing us on what terms we may leave and when. Even Remain MPs bridle at being instructed how to vote by the EU Commission.
Today many people take to London’s streets in a substantial demonstration of dissatisfaction with May’s government. Not about its austerity economics. For on this question they are divided. Nor over the privatisation of our NHS. There is no agreement about the public ownership of our utilities and energy.
Sharply divergent views exist over the future of our railways. Comprehensive schooling is favoured by some while other fiercely defend educational privilege. Attitudes to migration are as sharply divergent as are views on the danger of racism. Some favour a warlike Nato posture; others want disarmament and an end to Trident. It is a march made up of people who disagree on more than they agree.
They march in unity for a cause, a second referendum, which is highly unlikely to come about and are ill-served by a leadership which exhibits spectacular incompetence rivalling that of the government itself.
The fact is that only Parliament can bring about a second referendum and there is no conceivable parliamentary majority for this.
It is an odd “protest” movement. In sharp contrast to most demonstrations it enjoys a highly visible media promotion. The broadcast media give the movement unprecedented airtime. For days the London Evening Standard has advertised it. The Independent newspaper has made the campaign a centrepiece of its coverage for months.
Many on the march will harbour deep reservations about the EU and an even deeper antipathy to the public figures who back it. No-one wants to be led by the likes of Blair and Mandelson.
Many more thousands of sincere citizens find themselves in an impasse. What they desire cannot come about except through a violation of democracy and popular sovereignty and then only under the leadership of politicians and a media totally compromised by decades of austerity and war.
This moment will pass. The millions of workers who voted Remain have more in common with the millions who voted to Leave than with those who lead them.
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