[Written by Rafe Uddin – Politics Editor]
[Illustration by Julia Rosner]
The political discourse is one which is abound with hypothetical notions of what the world of tomorrow will look like. From daunting notions of rapture, as societies descend into conflict, to a belief that a political decision could stave off this outcome. From the impeachment of Trump to the reversal of Brexit – the leading assumption suggests that these will help society overcome an illiberal agenda. However, hypothetical arguments do little to outline what tomorrow will actually look like. I would go as far as to argue that they only amplify any echo chamber that you might be living in (Twitter now curating the voices in your head). However, I am not advocating playing host to all perspectives. Instead I am advocating – being pragmatic about the future – not altogether cynical.
Its March 2017, I celebrate my birthday, and Theresa May gate-crashes and triggers article 50 – a gift card would have been preferable. I voted to remain in the European Union; and would do so again in a heartbeat if given the chance to. However, the reality is very different, if not very daunting. I do not think we will be afforded that opportunity – and no petition or protest will change that. Crucially, my utmost fear is for those whose settlement in this country has been greatly compromised. As an individual who has fallen victim of the current governments hostile environment policy – I can empathise with their situation – and advocate for a settlement which protects their rights and the rights of expatriated Britons abroad. Indeed, it is a matter of pursuing a tomorrow which limits the extremes of political views today.
The ambiguity associated with the nature of the vote should not be put aside. To achieve a broad consensus, politicians mis sold promises of what the outcome of the referendum would be. A promise goes a lot further when it is specifically targeted at your own interests. Vote Leave, with the assistance of Cambridge Analytica, sold a wide variety of promises in the form of targeted advertising via social media. Certainly, the view to regain sovereignty and pursue reforms which would assist our fisheries, farms and issues of deprivation outside of the capital had broad appeal. We know this, and it certainly cannot be avoided when discussing the issue from the side of remain. It was not naïve to believe that the grass was greener outside of the EU – but it was woefully optimistic.
Presently, Brexit is not shaping out in a positive way. If we look at the governments Chequers Plan from earlier on in the year – we have been presented a form of Brexit – with the caveat that notions of free movement will certainly not carry. The plan seeks to harmonise trade in goods through the use of a common rulebook. Whilst, also allowing parliament to retrospectively remove this element should it see fit. Of greater prevalence is the issue of the border between Ireland and the UK. The proposal outlines a solution whereby a facilitated customs arrangement would be implemented. Preventing a hard border by treating the UK and EU as a combined customs territory. With domestic tariffs applied to goods received by either party from the other. Crucially, this plan will have to gain consensus across the spectrum, both in the UK and on the side of the EU. However, where we land with this is purely hypothetical.
Indeed, I could suggest that the EU will reject this outright. This is realistic if you view the UK as a test case for withdrawal – an example for other separatist movements. The EU could even possibly seek the harshest punishments to force the UK into a reversal of Brexit. Certainly, any rejection will embolden different demographics. The aforementioned ambiguity in the vote only serves to highlight how difficult it will be to determine any form of consensus. On the side of remain, individuals are lobbying for a people‘s vote – which would see a vote on the terms of Britain‘s withdrawal. However, this will not appease a body of politicians who hold significant sway over the stability of the current government. If we look at those influencing the negotiations we‘re met with an excessive form of pragmatic cabinet postings – designed to hold the party in power together for one full term.
However, when we explore some of these postings it is difficult to see stability where it is most needed. Ample disregard of Northern Ireland is best evidenced by a Northern Ireland Secretary who admitted to knowing nothing about the geopolitical issues evident in the region – having seemingly blagged her way into a graduate scheme – which turned out to be a major political post. Alternatively, a former foreign secretary who when embroiled in a s***storm for having an affair, declares that the Chequers Plan is a “suicide vest” – something he may well get in the ensuing divorce. Whilst, the current home secretary consoled someone following an attack in Finsbury Park with the words that he was a Muslim – a stance which is seemingly fluid when it comes to Islamophobia within the Conservative party. This simply serves to highlight the disarray present within government, making it impossible to predict what the future of Brexit process will be.
If you subscribe to Jacob Rees Mogg‘s view in a Channel 4 interview, that we will not know the positive determinant outcome for half a century, there is no potential measure of how dastardly such a decision will be in the present. Thus, the government in charge is not viewed as liable for the costs associated with this decision. The convenience of the hypothetical is increasingly too appealing for those in power (even if they‘re an incredibly tall backbencher). However, this is the issue of hypothesising the tomorrow, to fit the agenda of today. We shouldn‘t solely focus on short term matters. But fifty years to gauge the consequences of a vote, is not easy to swallow, nor is it a realistic time frame for many.
The Brexit vote stemmed from issues of today and a need to resolve them sooner rather than later. The NHS, businesses and more importantly the wider population, cannot appropriately plan around an unclear schedule. Thus, with scant details of what the outcome will be, it is ever apparent that the hypothetical notions of tomorrow, do little to relieve societal anxiety in the present.