7th February 2021
The front cover of the Observer this morning provides some indication of what the United Kingdom is doing to itself in respect of its botched endeavour of Brexit.
Tomorrow’s front page pic.twitter.com/5CD5XAaZT6— The Observer (@ObserverUK) February 6, 2021
As Michael Gove himself could well put it: this country appears to have had enough of exports.
Elsewhere are news reports of the realisation of Northern Irish unionists that the manner of this Brexit means that there is now a trade barrier down the Irish Sea.
Even the fishermen and fisherwomen, in whose names the very last stand of this government’s Brexit negotiation strategy was made, are unhappy.
Day by day, news report by news report, the true nature of Brexit is becoming apparent.
There will be deflections and misdirections from those who supported and urged through this government’s approach to Brexit.
And, to the annoyance and frustration of those who opposed either Brexit in principle or this government’s Brexit policy in particular, these deflections and misdirections will in good part stick.
There will be no grand ‘oh gosh’ moment when all those responsible for this folly will admit to it having been a folly.
This does not mean that those who are watching this folly unfold should be silent.
For the question that needs to keep on being asked – whether one is against Brexit in principle or this government’s Brexit policy in particular – is simple:
How is any of this worthwhile?
What is the point of Brexit?
This is not a complaint from principle but from practice – regardless of one’s view of membership of the European Union, those responsible for the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit policy are still required to justify what they are doing.
The answer from Brexit supporters to the question of why any of this is worthwhile seems to be one word: ‘sovereignty’.
All these disruptions and all these reversals are supposed to be worth it, because of ‘sovereignty’.
But, as this blog has previously averred, the United Kingdom had sovereignty all along.
That is why the United Kingdom was able to decide to leave the European Union, and that is why parliament was able to repeal the European Communities Act 1972.
Sovereignty was never lost.
And to the extent that the United Kingdom was bound by international rules and decisions, this was (and is) no different in principle to the obligations that the United Kingdom has under NATO, or the World Trade Organisation, or the United Nations.
Though curiously, many of those in favour of Brexit are at ease with our obligations in respect of those international organisations, and even boast of trading under ‘WTO rules’ or of the United Kingdom’s permanent membership of the UN security council.
One could even say that Brexit is nothing actually to do with ‘sovereignty’ (with or without scare quotes) and more to do with hostility to the ‘E’ word, Europe.
What Brexit certainly has little to do with in practice is the supremacy of parliament – indeed under the cloak of Brexit, the United Kingdom government is seeking to legislate as much as possible by executive action.
Powers are being taken away by Whitehall from Westminster rather than from Brussels.
Even on the one topic on which the current government has struck lucky – and that was more by chance than design – it was possible under European Union law for the United Kingdom to procure the AstraZeneca vaccine on its own terms.
And, indeed at the time, the United Kingdom was still subject to European Union law under the transition arrangements.
No assertions – however loud – about Brexit in practice being justified by ‘sovereignty’ in principle add up with a moment’s thought.
Not one incident of Brexit so far has shown any value of Brexit as an exercise in regaining ‘sovereignty’.
And this is not so much because Brexiters are wrong to prioritise sovereignty above everything else – but because none of this is really about sovereignty in the first place.
And so the question needs to keep on being asked as to why any of this is worthwhile.
Because it is only by pressing this question that we can ascertain the real reasons for certain botched policies and decisions – and then once the real reasons are ascertained then something useful can be done to mitigate the disruption and damage.
For like some character in an ancient myth or a folklore tale, the United Kingdom has chosen to bring destruction upon itself in supposed pursuit of a thing it had already.
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