You can never leave

Frank asked:

How would you estimate the chances for Brexit now that this evening the UK Parliament has agreed in principle to Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Bill?

Answer by Gideon Smith-Jones

I note that Prime Minister Boris Johnson took my advice and sent two letters to the EU, an unsigned ‘Parliament’s request’ for an extension of the EU exit deadline to the 31st January and a second letter arguing that the EU should not grant Parliament’s request.

(In my version there was one letter containing a section quoting the text of the letter that Parliament required to be sent. It is possible that the niceties of the use-mention distinction are not as clearly understood in law as they are by philosophers, hence two letters not one combined letter.)

As a result of the failure of the program motion (or ‘guillotine’) limiting the time allocated to passing the EU Withdrawal Bill, it is now impossible to meet the 31st October deadline. Donald Tusk is advising the EU twenty-seven that an extension should be granted although at the time of writing it is not known whether the extension will be to the 31st January, or to some time before that date, or after — possible months after.

Despite the necessary delay, it is feasible, even likely that some time during the next few weeks, or months, the Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified by the UK and EU and the UK will leave the EU. Is that Brexit?

Not at all.

Bear in mind what Michel Barnier, EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit and President of the European Council Donald Tusk both said at the press conference following the successful conclusion of their talks with Boris Johnson. ‘We are sorry to see you go but the door is open for you to come back any time.’

Where have you heard this before? You can never leave your lover, not permanently, if they say to you, ‘I will always take you back.’ Because, the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the weeks, months, years that follow you have to make the decision to not go back, over and over again.

There are ways to get round this. You burn your bridges, commit an act that is so despicable that you can never be allowed back. Or you decide that you will kill yourself, or your erstwhile partner. Human beings have been driven to such desperate extremes.

However, in this case no desperation is required, because the UK is a democracy and has periodic general elections. All it takes to reverse Brexit is a new UK government willing to turn back the clock and accept the EU’s ‘open door’ offer. So I’m sorry to tell you, Frank, that Brexit can never happen, at least in the form that Leave campaigners envisaged. It can never be permanent, so long as the UK and EU continue to exist.

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