As a nation we have spent the past few days waiting with collectively bated breath to see what our divorce from the European Union will look like. What strategy would our elected leaders devise for this unprecedented step into the unknown? Well, they were not exactly elected as our leaders. But at least they were selected by a gruelling process of debate and… well, not quite. At least we can rest assured that our unelected leaders are being kept in check by the scrutiny of Her Maj’s opposition… oh.
Well anyway, where was I? Oh yes: Brexit. It’s difficult to underestimate the hard work that was in store for Theresa May’s top team as they returned from their summer holidays to assemble at the PM’s Buckinghamshire mansion. If there was ever a time for a brainstorm, or, to use the more politically correct term, thought shower, this was it. As ever, where the Conservative Party is concerned, much of the focus was on division. It seems that when it comes to what Brexit means, what it should look like, and how we get there, the whole cabinet is brimming with many and varied ideas and plans. Who knew?
So who emerged triumphant from this battle of the political titans? Cometh the hour, cometh the man, as it emerged this week that newly appointed Brexit Secretary David Davis emerged victorious over the Chancellor Philip Hammond in a crucial debate. How did Davis, absent from frontline politics since 2008, achieve this Machiavellian feat? After what must have been hours of talking about stuff and drawing mind maps, Davis won the day by persuading his cabinet colleagues to endorse curbs on immigration. He convinced a whole Brexit brainstorm that a good idea for leaving the EU might be to get immigration down a bit. Brilliant!
This, it seems, is where politics is now. A place where stating the damn obvious counts as a victory. In fairness, for a man who, in the 2005 contest to become leader of the Conservative Party, lost to the wet-lipped chinless Etonian who thought it would be good to hold a referendum on Europe before this discussion took place, this probably does count as an achievement. For the rest of us, however, this is scarcely the decisive and bold vision of the withdrawal that we might have hoped for.
Just so all my cards are on the table, I voted remain. However, after an initial period of shock and bewilderment, I wasn’t one of the people (who I’m prepared to venture were in the minority) who went into a deep and dark period of mourning. Anyone who thinks that the European Union is an unquestionably positive force for progress, justice and equality should spend more time in Greece, or Spain, or Slovenia, or Hungary. But what I wanted to see after the referendum result was a positive, constructive, thought-out plan for the future, or, at the very least, and recognising that we don’t have a free hand in this, a statement of what we wanted to achieve. Instead, what we are left with is the self-satisfied crowing of politicians and their acolytes about their non-achievements, and a handful of vacuous buzzwords (if I hear that Britain is open for business one more time, I’m emigrating to America).
Still, do not despair entirely my friends, Boris Johnson is about to embark on a three-day European tour, on which his first scheduled meeting is with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin. What’s the worst that could happen?
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